One of the best things about playoff football is the great performances by individual players and those specific plays you remember that made a difference.
Fort Osage had both of those areas covered during its 17-14 come-from-behind win over Staley last Friday night to advance to the district championship game. But not only that, they had multiple huge plays on the game-winning drive alone.
You have to start with Larenzo Fenner.
Fenner not only had a memorable play on the final drive, but he also had a great overall performance. With the Indians offense sputtering, he got them going with maybe the best play I’ve seen so far this season.
He took a tip pass from quarterback Greg Menne and turned what should have been a 5-yard loss into a 15-yard touchdown run to start the comeback.
And with the game tied at 14 in the final minute, Fenner made his second explosive play in special teams. He caught a Staley punt running at nearly full speed and returned it to the Falcon 36-yard line with only 28 seconds left.
When I saw him sprinting forward to make the catch, I thought for sure he was going to take a big hit or run the risk of muffing the punt. But he caught it perfectly in stride to help set up the next two big plays.
David Jacquez took the handoff on a fourth-and-one with 11 seconds left, ran it straight up the gut and was stonewalled for a short gain. It was enough to get the first down, but still would have made for a very long field goal for kicker Xander Shepherd.
But after a few seconds, Jacquez popped the ball to the outside. I almost started writing down the short gain in my notes, thinking the play was dead. Instead of just a couple of yards, Jacquez turned it into a 9-yard gain.
Which brings us to Shepherd. I’ve written before that you never know what you are going to get from a high school kicker. I can’t imagine the pressure a 15-year-old must feel when the game has come down to their right leg.
Shepherd’s first game-winning attempt from 35 yards out missed, but he had new life when a Staley player ran into him on the kick. The next attempt was from 26 yards out – which, if my math is correct, would have been from 30 yards out had Jacquez not fought for those extra yards – and he nailed it. Redemption for the sophomore.
I loved Shepherd’s quote after the game.
“It was a surreal moment. That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever done. Words can’t explain how cool that was.”
And to have it be to take his team to the district championship, what a moment. This is why we love sports. This is why we love the playoffs. The Indians seemed down-and-out, headed for the exits in disappointing fashion.
But a handful of players and plays brought them back from the dead. I’ll be back out at Fort Osage Friday night. I’m excited to see which Fort Osage or Platte County players will have their playoff moment.