What Steve said: Steve Bubalo 11/20

Steve Bubalo

By Steve Bubalo PrepsKC Senior Writer
Posted: November 20, 2015 - 10:19 AM

I’ve covered my fair share of Odessa games this season, so maybe I’m a little biased when I ask this question, but I think it’s valid - is there a better story in Kansas City area high school football this year than the Bulldogs?

I’m sure there is a team on the Kansas side or even another team on the Missouri side that maybe hasn’t advanced as far as the Bulldogs that did some special things this fall, but I’d be hard-pressed to find a better story.

This team has had all kinds of interesting subplots this season as they look to advance to the Class 3 state championship game Saturday when they travel to Aurora.

You can start with the chip on the team’s shoulder they’ve played with all year. I heard it from the players early in the season after they beat defending state champ Oak Grove, and I still heard it some more after they took down top-ranked Maryville last Friday.

They came into the season unranked and were still unranked despite rolling to a 4-0 start. It took a win over the Panthers for them to gain some notice. Still, this team has felt like the underdog from game one.

“Coach always tells us there’s no pressure on us,” running back Kobe Hardin said after the team defeated the Spoofhounds. “We’re just little ole’ Odessa, we’re not any good.”

While they’ve played the underdog card consistently - and understandably, more of the time - that probably goes out the window after you take down the No. 1 team in the state. People take notice of that.

Another subplot - the job of head coach Mark Thomas.

Thomas is in just his third year with the Bulldogs and after going 2-8 in 2013, the team made big strides last year to get to 7-4 before breaking out this season.

To really get an idea of what Thomas has done to turn the program around, look at where they were in 2011. The bulldogs put up a goose egg, 0-10, and had only one game in which they lost by single digits.

So, they’ve got a great coach, what about a star player? Look no further than Hardin.

I was impressed with Hardin from the first game I saw him play in the season-opener against St. Pius X. In fact, it was the first high school anyone had seen him play.

That’s right, to make Hardin’s story even better, to go along with some absurd stats - 2,600+ yards and 39 touchdowns - this is the senior’s first season of playing high school football. What a fairytale season it could end up being?

Maybe the best story of the Odessa season is what it’s done to the town. For a city that is known for some great past football teams, times were tough just a few years ago.

But, not surprisingly, the town has embraced the team. Being a part of that atmosphere last Friday night was fun. It was a mad house.

“Everybody is involved, everybody is supportive,” linebacker Cameron Ellis said. “The whole town has turned upside down.”

I’m not sure who is going to slow down the Bulldogs at this point. Next up is a 9-4 Aurora team with a one-loss John Burroughs or an undefeated Blair Oaks - the No. 3 and No. 2 teams in the state, respectively - waiting on the other side of the bracket if Odessa can scratch out one more win.

At this point, I wouldn’t put anything past these Bulldogs, underdog or not.

“We’re always the underdog until we win it all,” Hardin said.

That would be a perfect ending to what has been a storybook season.