(Photo by Ryan Christoffel) [Order this photo]
"Despite the scoreboard, we couldn't be prouder of this team," Okoboji coach Jon Allen said. "They fought hard all the way through. We ran that exact offense with our scout offense, but couldn't duplicate their speed."
Injuries to three key offensive weapons, including running backs Gabe Goehring, Weston Burgeson and receiver Keaton Jones unveiled the Pioneers lack of depth.
"It was great to see some of the younger kids play hard. We tried to protect the younger kids and had our junior and seniors try to play all the way through, but it was hard to do that after Gabe (Goehring) went down, Wes (Burgeson) tweaked his ankle and Keaton (Jones) separated his shoulder," Allen said.
Spirit Lake, the defending Class 2A state runners-up, picked up right where they left off last season with touchdowns on their first eight possessions before letting off the accelerator midway through the second quarter.
"We were happy that we had far less penalties and penalty yards, but you can tell that their first team has worked on that (offense) for quite some time," Allen said. "They're fast and it was hard for us to get containment. We need to work on our tackling and had some line issues, too."
Casey Spaeth took the Indians first play from scrimmage in for a touchdown on a 45-yard pitch to the left, then Andrew Ites, Cody Poock and Bryson McCabe found the end zone on runs.
Newcomer Tyler Petersen got into the scoring action on a 29-yard jaunt with 40.6 seconds left in the first half that opened up a 35-0 edge after Brett Cochran-Bray booted the extra point.
Nick Amundson scored on a 33-yard reception and back-up quarterback Brandon Stoll scored on a pair of 1-yard plunges later in the first half.
The Pioneers fought hard the rest of the way and turned a pair of turnovers into touchdowns in the final 24 minutes after switching from the I to a shotgun formation.
"(Quarterback) Jordan (Hanna) hit our tight ends a couple times," Allen said. "He made some great decisions and had some nice runs, but again, we had a hard time competing with their size and speed up front."
One play after Spirit Lake's Max Kruse intercepted a pass to end the third stanza, Hunter Menefee recovered a fumble in the end zone on the initial play of the fourth. Jake Dodge then sailed his point after kick through the uprights.
Okoboji came up with another clutch play on deep in their own territory on defense on the ensuing drive when Alex Menefee scooped up a fumble and rumbled 73 yards the opposite way before Austin Folsom caught Menefee at Spirit Lake's 10-yard line. Two plays later, Mark Nielsen found paydirt on a broken play, reversing direction after fumbling the ball and scampering across the goal line from seven yards out with 4:22 left in the game. Dodge kicked an extra point attempt to push the final margin to 56-14.
The Pioneers were held to 47 yards rushing on 19 carries and managed just 31 yards through the air. Hanna finished 5-of-10 passing for 31 yards with three interceptions and rushed four times for 33 yards. Dalton Poppema hauled in one catch for 22 yards and Mark Nielsen finished with two grabs for 18 yards.
Okoboji committed just four penalties for 20 yards, but was hurt by five turnovers and a blocked punt by Paul Brown. The Indians forced two fumbles and came away with three picks.
The Pioneers open up at home next Friday against Sibley-Ocheyedan.