TONTOGANY – Otsego got a huge second quarter performance from three-year starting quarterback Mitchell Downs, then needed two late turnovers to squelch a furious Evergreen rally and grab a 37-21 win at Otsego Friday in the season opener.
After a number of punts by both teams in the opening quarter, Otsego took over on the Viking 46 and Downs went to work, hitting Ben Gray with a 39-yard pass to the Evergreen 3 yard line.
Downs took it in himself three plays later to give the Knights a 7-0 lead with 5:09 left in the first quarter.
Evergreen came right back three plays later when Hunter VanWert got the edge on the right side and sped 58 yards for a score, but a bad snap on the try kept the Knights up 7-6.
But then it was all Downs in the second quarter as he hit Austin Meier for a 9-yard score, Gray from 32 yards out, and again scored himself on a three yard run to put Otsego ahead 28-6 at the half.
Downs threw for 254 yards on 15 of 29 passing in the first half.
Evergreen had a second scoring chance when Jack Etue’s 39-yard strike to Bryce Hudik got the Vikings into Otsego territory, but Etue’s pass three plays later bounced off a Viking receiver into the hands of Meier to kill that threat.
On the Knights second series of the third, Downs broke through a seam at the line and romped 65 yards for a score that put the Knights up 34-6 and seemingly put the game away.
However, Evergreen was far from going away.
A fast action 12 play drive that ate up just three minutes, led by the running of VanWert, Trent Coopshaw and two first down passes to Chandler Lumbrezer was capped by Etue’s one yard run. With the ensuing two-point play to VanWert, Evergreen closed to 34-14.
Otsego used a big third down conversion pass from Downs to Meier to get in position for a field goal from Noah Svanberg to go up 37-14, but the Vikings came right back on VanWert’s 57-yard gallop to slice the lead to 37-21 with 7:36 left.
Evergreen got a pair of stops, including Isaac Yunker’s block of a Meier punt. But those chances ended when VanWert, in the midst of breaking tackles on a big gain, fumbled on the first opportunity. Then, Etue’s pass deep in Otsego terrritory was intercepted before the Knights were able to run the clock out.
For the game, Downs threw for 294 yards and ran for 141 more.
The Vikings accumulated 304 yards total, including 182 on 19 carries from VanWert.
Etue was 11 of 24 for just 93 yards and two interceptions.
Evergreen hosts Montpelier this Friday at Pifer Field.
Reach Joe Blystone at firstname.lastname@example.org