Evergreen showed great improvement under first-year coach Aaron Schmidt, however, Otsego’s experience proved to be the key. The Knights use the passing combination of a pair of three-year starters, Mitchell Downs to Will Varner for three touchdowns as the Knights scored a 28-14 win Friday at Pifer Field.
That combo struck first with 4:45 left in the first quarter from 16 yards out to cap a 64 yard drive in 10 plays to take a 7-0 lead.
Evergreen came right back with a six play 72-yard drive of their own as Hunter Van Wert took a short pass from Jack Etue, found a seam and raced through the Knight secondary for a 56-yard score to tie the game with 2:21 to go in the quarter.
After an exchange of punts gave the Knights good field position at their own 45, Downs found Varner down the left sideline on the third pay for a 40-yard scoring strike to put Otsego back up 14-7 with 8:44 left in the half.
Then came one of a number of critical plays in the game when Ryan Harroun picked off Etue’s short pass, giving the Knights the ball back at the Viking 48.
Five plays later, Downs again hooked up with Varner for a 13-yard score to make it a 21-7 game at halftime.
Evergreen stopped the Knights’ opening drive of the second half when Free Canales went high to take the ball away from Varner on another deep shot attempt but the Vikings fizzled on offense.
The Vikes got a big break when on the ensuing punt the ball bounced off a Knight player and Brandon Taylor recovered, giving Evergreen great field position on the 25 of Otsego. But again the Vikings were turned away from the end zone when a fourth down play came up short.
The teams traded scores in the fourth quarter as Canales made a diving scoring catch off an Etue aerial and Downs hit his fourth score on a 25-yard strike to Austin Meier.
For the game, Downs was 22 of 33 for 268 yards while Etue was 10 of 21 for 124.
Otsego had 109 yards on the ground while the Vikings had 85 on the ground, including 73 from Van Wert.
Evergreen (0-1) travels to Montpelier (0-1) this Friday.