By CONOR NICHOLL for Sports in Kansas
Helped by a 30-point third quarter and a big game from senior quarterback Reece Grafel, Oberlin-Decatur Community pulled away for a 56-18 home win against Northwest Kansas League rival St. Francis on Friday. The contest was much closer than the final score and rain fell through a portion of the contest.
The left-handed Grafel accounted for seven touchdowns: three passing and four rushing.
Oberlin lost, 48-0, to St. Francis in the 2020 season opener.
A year later, Grafel had his first career start at quarterback. Last season, he caught eight passes for 87 yards and a score. Oberlin graduated standout quarterback Gavon Uehlin, who passed for 365 yards and four touchdowns, along with 876 rushing yards and nine TDs.
Friday marked the first game for new coach Brandon Hardwick, a former Hays High standout who earned a football scholarship at Butler County Community College. Plus, Oberlin ended a six-game losing streak versus St. Francis. Oberlin beat SF for the first time since a 52-34 win against Sept. 19, 2014.
St. Francis has three eight-man state runner-up showings in the last five years, including the past two seasons. SF took significant graduation losses and has a new coach, though returned junior quarterback Ben Busse, a talented football and basketball player. Busse went out of the game in the first half with apparent injury.
The Indians were 62-7 with one regular season loss from 2015-20, per the Kansas Football History database. Oberlin became the first team to defeat SF in the regular season since a 40-32 loss to Atwood in Week 6 of the 2017 season. St. Francis started just two seniors against Oberlin.
Oberlin lists seven seniors on its Hudl roster: Grafel, center Logan Koger, tight end Breckin Sauvage, tight end Corbin Wessel, wide receiver Tod Mastin, Bryce Peter and wide receiver Gavin Wasson.
The Red Devils started: Grafel, Mastin, Peter, Koger and four juniors: Josh Juenemann, running back Teague Morford, guard Bryant Addelman, and lineman Gavin Seller.
Oberlin’s three captains were three seniors: Grafel, Peter and Koger (6-0, 230).
St. Francis led 6-0 late in the first quarter when Oberlin took over a short field after an Indian punt.
The left-handed Grafel tossed a 21-yard touchdown pass to Juenemann with seven seconds left in the first quarter. The game was tied at six after the first quarter.
The score remained at six before Grafel threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Mastin in the left corner. Oberlin led 12-6 with 2 minutes, 54 seconds left in the first half.
Later in the second quarter, Grafel showed nifty elusiveness down the left side with a 25-yard run. That set up a five-yard Peter TD run for a 20-6 lead. St. Francis scored, and Oberlin led 20-12 at halftime.
St. Francis cut the deficit to 20-18 with 53 seconds into the second half on a 56-yard touchdown run by junior Preston Witzel, who took over for Busse at quarterback.
Then, Oberlin finished the game with 36 unanswered points.
Grafel scored on runs from 11, 10 and 11 yards, and then threw a 22-yard touchdown pass for Oberlin’s third-quarter touchdowns. In the fourth, Grafel had a six-yard touchdown run that featured a spin move.
Special thanks to Open Spaces Sports for covering this game and others in western Kansas. SIK re-watches multiple games on OSS, including this one.