Fort Osage coach Brock Bult had a message for his defense during Friday’s 35-30 win over Oak Park.
The message? Well, it was quite simple … Trust what your eyes are seeing.
The Indians (7-2) were tasked with shutting down a motion heavy Northmen offense led by Aiden Hinkle. Fort Osage bowed its neck and came up with timely stops on defense to help win the Suburban Red Conference title and lock up the top seed in the Class 5 District 8 playoffs.
“It’s just trusting your keys and getting your eyes in the backfield against a team like that,” Bult said. “All you have to do is trust your keys and trust the defense. … they were flying around, and we had some mistakes and we’ll get them cleaned up.”
Both offenses struggled to find their footing early, but it was Oak Park who struck first as Travon Pankey ripped off a 63-yard run down the far sideline to give the Northmen an early 7-0 lead.
Oak Park’s lead didn’t last long as Fort Osage answered with a long touchdown drive of its own as Greg Menne connected with Anthony Thompson for a 8-yard touchdown to tie the game 7-7.
The Northmen took a 14-7 lead late in the first half as Hinkle found Xavier Williams, who was double covered on the play, for a 27-yard touchdown.
“When we got down early in that game we knew we had each other’s backs,” Menne said. “That’s what this team is really about. … we had a rocky, but we executed the game plan and ended up finishing in the second half.”
The Indians were able to seize the momentum in the third quarter as sophomore running back Ryver Peppers ripped off a 49-yard touchdown that cut the deficit to 14-13. Peppers finished the game with 221 totals and four touchdowns (three rushing and one receiving).
After the Fort Osage defense forced a three-and-out on the ensuing possession, it was Peppers who put the Indians on top, as he carried several Northmen into the end zone with a 5-yard run up the gut to increase its lead to 21-14 after Brock Branstietter converted the 2-point conversion.
“Ryver’s getting smarter and better,” Menne said. “He’s working hard in the weight room. … but he’s making the right reads on the field. That’s the biggest difference. He’s had the skill level, but he’s adding onto that skill level and he’s (becoming) a very good football player.”
Oak Park threatened to tie the game late in the third quarter but facing a fourth-and-3 Oak Park coach Ken Clemens left his offense on the field, that decision proved costly as Hinkle was intercepted by Thompson, who returned to midfield.
However, the Indians were penalized for an illegal block in the back on the return and dead ball personal foul, which back them inside their own 5-yard line, two plays later an errant snap went over the head of Menne and into the end zone which was covered by Fort Osage, which resulted in a safety, cutting the lead to 21-16.
Oak Park reclaimed the lead on its ensuing offensive possession as Pankey cut through the Indian defense for a 33-yard touchdown.
The lead didn’t last long as Peppers scored on the very next play from scrimmage to put Fort Osage back on top 28-24.
With the win, the Indians will get a much-needed bye week headed into the Class 5 playoffs. Bult said he’s giving his team the weekend to celebrate the conference championship, a championship that didn’t seem likely the way the Indians started the season.
“We’re going to enjoy this conference championship,” he said. “We’re giving the guys the night off and the weekend off. We’re going to come back and watch it (the game) on Monday to see what we need to fix.”