Eagles rally for big win

Jason Lawrence/PrepsKC

By Jason Lawrence PrepsKC staff writer
Posted: October 10, 2015 - 1:05 AM

When Fort Osage took the opening kickoff, converted a fourth-and-3 inside Liberty North territory and senior quarterback Skylar Thompson connected with senior Bailey Williamson on a 32-yard touchdown, Eagles head coach Ken Clemens thought his team was in for a long night.

His team instead rose to the occasion, staging a fourth-quarter comeback to upset the top-ranked Indians 21-14 Friday night on the road.

“I had visions of turbo clock in my head,” Clemens said, “but our kids are tough kids and they showed tonight that they can battle and execute just good enough to beat a great football team.”

Class 5 No. 8 Liberty North (6-2) is no stranger to big games, having beat rival Kearney for the first time in school back in Week 3. Five weeks later, Clemons and company have an even bigger win on their resume.

“We felt like Kearney might have been the biggest regular season win until this one,” Clemens said. “Fort Osage is the best-coached team in the city every single year, and to be able to beat them, I just feel very blessed.”

Trailing 14-7 at halftime, the second half didn’t start much better for Liberty North and senior quarterback Michael Wansing, who threw his third interception of the night on the opening drive of the half.

“Our defense just played lights out and saved us from what could have gotten ugly with the early turnovers,” Clemens said.

The Eagles’ defense, however, held stout and early in the fourth quarter Wansing took advantage of his defense’s efforts. Taking over at his own 14-yard line, Wansing converted on third-and-14, finding junior Jack DeGarmo for 20 yards.

“He’s a gamer,” Clemens said of Wansing. “He’s just a savvy competitive kid. It’s not pretty, and he wouldn’t be insulted by that, he knows it’s not pretty. He showed why he’s our quarterback tonight. … He looks slow, he looks like he’s got a noodle arm, but somehow he gets things done.”

The tandem again hooked up for 35 yards down the middle later in the drive before senior Jon Redmond converted a third-and-11 from the Indians’ 15.

Two plays later, Redmond finished the drive and pulled the Eagles within one, 14-13, with 9:11 to play. However, the extra point missed and Fort Osage head coach Ryan Schartz exhaled.

“Him missing that extra point, that’s a big deal,” Schartz said. “We just obviously didn’t answer. We needed to move the chains. We played on the wrong side of the field most of the game.”

Liberty North, however, had what it needed most: momentum.

The Eagles forced another three-an-out and Wansing took advantage of a shorter field, driving the Eagles 50 yards and capping the drive with a 21-yard strike to DeGarmo on third-and-14. Senior Devon Davis made it a touchdown difference, laying out to haul in the two-point conversion pass.

“My teammates trusted in me, they knew what we had to do,” Wansing said. “I’ve got to give it up to the O-line, they blocked great the whole night. I made mistakes and they continued to block great.

“My receivers caught the ball when it mattered, they made plays. Then that two-point conversion, I’ve got to give it to Devon. That was one heck of a catch.”

On what turned out to be its final drive of the night, Fort Osage turned the ball over on downs at the Eagles’ 40 with 1:42 to play. Senior quarterback Skylar Thompson scrambled on fourth-and-5, but the pass fell harmlessly to the turf and the Eagles, with the help of a rushing the passer penalty on third down, ran out the clock.

“It’s tough considering that most of the time we’re the comeback team. We’ve done it many, many times,” Schartz said. “I thought we played on our heels a little bit tonight and Liberty North did a great job gaining momentum and keeping momentum.”

In the first half, Fort Osage senior Bryce Richardson intercepted Wansing twice, before nabbing his third in the third quarter, but the Indians were only able to turn one of the two into points — a 5-yard touchdown run by Thompson with 7:49 to go in the first half.

“Typically you win the turnover battle like that, you win the game,” Schartz said. “Not tonight. … We didn’t get enough first downs on offense.”

Liberty North’s lone first half score came on a two-yard run by senior Dante Edwards on the Eagles’ second possession of the night.

Fort Osage (7-1), which suffered its first regular season loss since Sept. 28, 2012 against Staley, finishes up the regular season at Raytown (3-5) next Friday while Liberty North host North Kansas City (3-6) in the regular season finale.

“I’m excited, that’s all I can say about it,” DeGarmo said. “We’ve got North Kansas City next week and if we can beat them, we tie for the conference championship. That’ll be the first one in North history, then just keep it rolling from there.”