Fort Osage tops Truman for another district title
By Jason Lawrence PrepsKC staff writer
Fort Osage and Truman had not played each other in a decade, but the unfamiliarity didn’t hinder the Class 5, District 7 top-seeded Indians Friday night as they jumped out to an early lead and never looked back en route to winning their fourth consecutive district championship.
The Indians, utilizing the running game that propelled them last week in a rain-soaked win over Raytown scored on the ground on their first two possessions, putting second-seeded Truman in a 12-0 hole less than five minutes into the district title game.
On the game’s opening possession, Indians’ sophomore Isaiah Iloilo scored from 8 yards out, then after forcing a punt, senior quarterback Skylar Thompson took an option keeper 23 yards to the house with just 4:41 off the opening quarter clock.
“I was thinking ‘We’re going to get run out of here by 100,’” Truman head coach Gregg Webb said of the early deficit. “They were going to score again and we were toast.
“Our bunch has never been here … they weren’t ready for that. … We just weren’t doing our jobs defensively so they just marched it right down the field and it’s 12-0. Thank God they missed a couple extra points to give us some hope.”
Truman put a stop to the Indians’ next drive, forcing a fumble deep in their own territory, and then after trading punts, the Patriots put together their best drive of the night to claw their way back into the game.
Backed up inside their own 10, the Patriots mixed their ground game with some quick hitting passes, marching 93 yards and cutting the Indians’ lead to just 12-7 on a 20-yard touchdown pass from senior Dean Clemons to senior Jonathan Gosserand.
“Our kids finally figured out about halfway through the second quarter how physical this game was going to be,” Webb said.
However, Fort Osage had an answer, scoring just 1:37 later on Iloilo’s second rushing touchdown of the night, this one from 9 yards out.
“We wanted to (answer quickly),” Fort Osage head coach Ryan Schartz said. “That was our whole game plan. We wanted to speed up the game as fast as we could. We knew they had some two-way players and we wanted them running as much as we could.”
Coming out of the locker room, the Indians’ defense returned to its first quarter form and forced a quick three-and-out, and the special teams unit rewarded them. Senior Donte Dodson fielded the punt in Fort Osage territory and found a big gap along the home sideline and followed it all the way to the end zone to put the hosts on top 26-7.
“That was huge,” Schartz said. “We talked about it all week long. We felt like special teams we could get an edge. We practiced hard and the kids on special teams did a great job. The blocking was awesome on the punt return, I can’t wait to watch it on film.”
The two teams then played follow the leader, trading touchdowns, turnovers and turnovers on downs on each of their next three possessions, respectively.
Truman senior tailback Jordan Salima followed a fourth-and-eight pass of 23 yards from Clemons to Gosserand with a 1-yard touchdown run, but the Indians again answered just 1:03 later as Thompson connected with senior running back Bailey Williamson for a 24-yard touchdown pass with 1:56 remaining in the third quarter.
After a Clemons fumble, he made up for it by intercepting Thompson in the end zone before the two traded turnovers on downs. Clemons helped the Patriots cut the deficit to its final margin, 33-20, with 40.9 seconds remaining, hitting senior Joe Allen for a toe-tapping 28-yard touchdown.
It was too later, however, as Fort Osage went into victory formation to head to the state tournament for the fourth consecutive season.
“I felt like all three phases were solid,” Schartz said of his offense, defense and special teams. “… I think we executed our gameplan pretty well, and I’m pleased with the kids.”
The Indians (10-1) will hit the road to take on District 8 champion Park Hill (11-1), which has won 11 straight games, in the state quarterfinals, a rematch of last season’s quarterfinal matchup that the Trojans won 21-20.
“Everybody’s good now at this point. It’s down to eight teams in Class 5,” Schartz said. “We’re one of eight and just proud to be one of eight, and lucky to be one of eight. … We’re just excited to be playing.”
Truman, meanwhile, finishes 8-3, its most successful team in more than 20 years — when the 1994 team also won eight games. Webb must replace 16 seniors, including Salima and Clemons, who ran for more than 2,000 and 1,000 yards, respectively, during their senior campaigns. However, he thinks the foundation has been laid since going 0-10 his first year to 6-5 and winning the first playoff game in school history to advancing to the district title game this season.
“We have to reach another level not to be satisfied with that, and I know it’s difficult,” Webb said. “… When I first got here, we went 0-10 and I told people, anybody that would listen, ‘I don’t know how tough it is to get to the middle, but it’s going to be tough to get over that.”
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