Kearney king of the champions

Stephen Bubalo/PrepsKC

By Stephen Bubalo PrepsKC Senior Writer
Posted: August 20, 2016 - 12:32 AM

Two defending state champions took the field against each other Friday night. Two teams hoping they can bypass any kind of rebuilding phase and go straight to reloading in 2016.

And while one week is the smallest of sample sizes, it looked like Kearney has a chance to once again be a force in Class 4, as they took down defending Class 5 champion Fort Osage, 35-14.

“We have so many new faces,” Bulldogs head coach Greg Jones said. “It was great to see them execute and move the ball. I’m extremely proud of the way we played.”

Indeed, the Bulldog offense looked like a well-oiled machine for week one.

Led by senior quarterback Anthony Pritzel, who moved from Excelsior Springs, Kearney’s offense scored on six of its first seven possessions of the game. The only time they were stopped was their drive before the half that started with less than 15 seconds remaining.

“Everything was clicking pretty well,” Pritzel said. “The game plan worked. Everything fell into place.”

Any nerves there were for the first game of the season were quelled quickly, as the Bulldogs took the opening kickoff into Indian territory and quickly found the end zone on a running score by Logan Hachman to make it 7-0 less than 3 minutes into the season.

“That calmed them down,” Jones said of the opening score. “It’s nice to play on top. That was calming for a bunch of guys who don’t have a lot of experience on offense.”

That same inexperience came on the defensive side of the ball for the Indians, as they return just two players who saw any playing time a season ago. After Hunter Adkison added a 22-yard field goal to make it 10-0, the Fort Osage defense got burned on a deep ball from Pritzel to Jess Davis for a 64-yard touchdown and a 17-0 lead.

“That was a fake toss and I went deep,” Pritzel said. “I saw the safety sit there and I took a shot.”

According to first-year Indians head coach Brock Bult there was just a breakdown on the play.

“It was just a misread,” Bult said. “Our eyes were in the wrong place. It’s a teachable moment. We have to learn and get better.”

Fort Osage showed some fight before the half, cutting what had turned into a 20-0 deficit by marching 79 yards before the half and scoring on an Isaiah Iloilo 7-yard run.

The Indians leaned heavily on Iloilo, one of the few returning players on offense from a year ago.

“He’s going to have to carry the load for us for a while, as guys grow into their roles,” Bult said.

The second half ended up being more of the same for the Bulldogs. After the defense forced an Indian punt to start the second half, the offense put together a methodical drive that last nearly 6 minutes. Like they did all game, they had a nice mix on the ground and in the air, as Pritzel capped the drive with a 9-yard touchdown run in what was a nice start to his Bulldog career.

“He’s getting better,” Jones said. “He understands the system and he’s asking a lot of questions. He wants to learn. When you have a guy who acts like a sponge you know he has a chance to be great.”

After a two-hour rain delay, each team added a score in the fourth quarter in what still a steady rain.

While the title defense of each team got off to different starts, both coaches know it’s still early.

“The pieces are there,” Jones said. “We have to continue to put it together. Nobody owes us anything.”

Added Bult, “We’re young and we’re going to make mistakes, but I thought we grew throughout the game.”