This was not the scenario envisioned by many for Fort Osage football a few weeks ago. Not after all the injuries. Not after all the losses.
But here the Fort Osage players were, shouting, hugging, high-fiving and giving coach Brock Bult an ice water shower during a beautiful late-November afternoon. Improbable as it may have seemed then, Fort Osage was celebrating a fourth-ever trip to the Class 5 state championship.
That so many had written off Fort Osage just made Saturday’s 46-30 victory over Columbia Battle in a Class 5 semifinal at Fort Osage’s new stadium all the sweeter for Bult and his team.
“The adversity that our team faced this year is more than I’ve ever seen,” Bult said. “It seemed like every week we had new injuries. But our kids bought in, stepped up and started playing together.”
Fort Osage (9-4) stood 3-4 after a disheartening 42-35 loss at Raytown Oct. 5. The Indians were a modest 5-4 going into postseason play, but in that time they started to heal and find players who could replace those still hurting.
And by the time they played host to Battle, Fort Osage had become a team that could play smash-mouth offense, lights-out defense and benefit from opportunistic special teams. All three came in handy against Battle.
Fort Osage racked up 470 yards of offense, 400 of them with a physical ground game. Quarterback Ty Baker led the attack by rushing for 107 yards and a touchdown and throwing for another TD. Running back Blake Robertson finished with 132 rushing yards and two TDs on 11 carries and Brandon Gregory Jr. had 101 yards and another TD.
“Looking at film, we knew we could run the ball and pass the ball efficiently,” Baker said. “We could do anything we wanted and that’s basically what we did.”
Battle, which played the fourth semifinal in the program’s five-year history, rolled up 428 total yards of offense. But spared by two timely interceptions from senior defensive back Cahleel Smith, Fort Osage’s defense stopped Battled often enough to let the Indians pull away.
“This was our first complete team win all year with all three phases,” Bult said. “And we needed all three phases to beat that team.”
Fort Osage never trailed after the first play from scrimmage when Gregory blew through a big hole up the middle and sprinted 71 yards for a touchdown. Baker threw to Ethan Parton for a two-point conversion and an 8-0 lead.
“That kind of set the tone quick, that we weren’t here to joke around,” Baker said. “We were here to take care of business.”
Battle tied the game 8-8 later in the first quarter when running back Darren Jordon scored the first of his two touchdowns on a 20-yard run and quarterback Jaren Lewis threw for a two-point conversion. Jordon rushed for 182 yards on 26 carries while Lewis threw for 176 yards and two scores.
Hill picked off his first pass at midfield late in the first quarter, and that set up an 11-yard TD run from linebacker/running back Von Young IV at the start of the second period for a 15-8 lead. Battle retied the game with a 23-yard TD pass by Lewis, but Fort Osage ended its next possession with Jacob Lammering’s 32-yard field goal and an 18-15 lead.
The back-and-forth ended when Smith got his second pick in the end zone to end Battle’s next possession. Five plays later, Baker connected with Richard Wiseman Jr., who slipped a tackle along the sideline for a 43-yard TD catch and a 25-15 lead Fort Osage took into halftime.
In the third quarter, Battle turned the ball over on downs on two of its first three possessions. Robertson blasted up the middle for a 29-yard TD late in the quarter, and the Indians had a 32-15 lead.
“The first half we thought we came out a little slow and we all realized that,” Young said of the Indians’ defense. “We came in at halftime and made some checks had a little talk with the defense and we got going and we finished the game out.”
Battle (8-5) never came closer than 10 points after that. Baker scored on a 28-yard run opening the fourth quarter, and Robertson went 42 yards for his second TD and a 46-22 lead.
Soon Fort Osage would be celebrating its fourth trip to the state final and its first since winning it all in 2015. The Indians will face Vianney 7 p.m. Dec. 1 at Faurot Field in Columbia. Vianney (10-3) downed Carthage 36-21 in the other semifinal.
A final matchup that seemed improbable to all but the Indians themselves.
“There’s about 80 guys who thought that we could do this, and they were affiliated with our team,” Young said. “We all just stuck together and we got everything rolling at the right time.”