For a half, the Fort Osage defense was doing everything they could to slow down Vianney’s two-headed monster in the backfield of Kyren Williams and Percy Mitchell in the Class 5 state title game at Memorial Stadium Saturday night. The tandem combined for just 96 rushing yards on 23 attempts.
Add in a couple of big passing plays from the offense that led to short touchdown runs and the Indians went into the half with a 14-0 lead and were on the verge of another state championship.
In the second half, though, the script was flipped and Williams and Mitchell – especially Williams – started to run wild. The two combined for 283 yards on 25 carries in the final 24 minutes, as the Golden Griffins earned a 28-14 victory.
“That’s a great team we played tonight,” Fort Osage head coach Brock Bult said. “That was a game of momentum. We had it in the first half. We could never get it back. … They’ve got two really good backs and a big O-line. They keep pounding and eventually they find creases. We had to eliminate the big plays to have a chance. They found some big plays.”
Williams was the main thorn in the side of the defense, as he finished with 289 yards rushing, 215 of those coming in the second half.
“He’s not the biggest guy but he’s quick in and out of his breaks,” Indians linebacker Von Young IV said. “He’s shifty for sure. It’s tough to wrap him up. We had trouble with that tonight.”
The key play of the game came late in the third quarter. With Vianney trailing 14-7 and facing a fourth-and-1 on their own 29-yard line, Williams busted loose up the middle for a 71-yard touchdown run.
The extra point was missed to make it 14-13 Fort Osage, but the Golden Griffins were starting to run at will on the Indian defense.
“(Offensive lineman) Max (Franey) said it was going to be open and that I better hit it,” Williams said of the big fourth-down play. “He split that hole like the Red Sea. We made some really big plays late in the game to turn the momentum.”
It was more of the same in the fourth quarter. The Golden Griffin defense forced a quick three-and-out, and the offense drove 70 yards in just six plays, capped by a Mitchell 2-yard touchdown to make it 21-14 after the two-point conversion.
On its next possession, Vianney would go 90 yards on nine plays – all runs – with Mitchell once again putting the finishing touches on the drive with a 10-yard score to make it 28-14.
“We felt we put ourselves in some bad situations (in the first half),” Golden Griffin head coach Paul Day said. “We made a concerted effort (in the second half) to do some fast screens, maybe take a shot or two, but mostly just to run the ball and do what got us here. We thought we could wear them down.”
Fort Osage (9-5) came out strong to start the game. The defense forced a pair of turnovers and quarterback Ty Baker turned a couple of broken plays into big gains and eventual touchdowns, one from Young IV and the other from Brandon Gregory Jr.
“I was reading the defense up front,” Baker said of the first big play to wideout Adam Harbord for a 40-yard gain. “It was a broken play from the start. I ran to the outside and my receiver kept running. That was a huge momentum change (early in the game).”
Unfortunately, for the Indians, they couldn’t sustain that momentum. Baker was under pressure for most of the game, getting sacked six times and knocked down on multiple occasions. Overall, the offense could only muster 214 yards of total offense.
It was a tough end to what looked like what might be a forgettable season through seven weeks. Riddled with injuries, the Indians were sitting at 3-4.
But a six-game win streak gave them a shot at a state title and showed their ability to fight through adversity.
“Everyone doubted us,” safety Blake Murphy said. “We just got better every play. We kept fighting.”
Added Baker: “We had a lot of adversity. We had injuries. I wouldn’t trade these guys for anything.”