Friday’s Class 5, District 8 championship game between Fort Osage and Oak Park, was like one of old fashioned boxing matches.
The Indians (9-2), came out throwing haymakers. The Northman (8-3), countered with a few haymakers of their own, before Fort Osage delivered the final knockout punch to advance to the Class 5 quarterfinals with an impressive 44-25 win.
With the game still within reach, trailing 27-19, Oak Park faced a 4th-and-38. Fort Osage forced an errant punt, instead of letting the ball bounce and roll to a stop, Ramon Tillmon snatched the ball out of the crisp November air. Tillmon made a few defenders miss and scampered into the end zone 31-yards later.
“I think our kids really got going there (after that touchdown),” Fort Osage coach Brock Bult said. “They just kept rolling afterwards. … it (the game) could’ve gone either way.”
Fort Osage extended its lead as Greg Menne connected with Ryver Peppers for a 21-yard touchdown to give the Indians a 41-19 lead.
Oak Park countered with an impressive drive to keep the game close as Travon Pankey scored his third rushing touchdown of the night with a 9-yard run, but it was too late. Pankey carried the ball 22 times for 181 yards, scoring four touchdowns.
“They are fast,” Bult said of Oak Park’s skill position players. “They’ve got weapons running all over the place. You better be disciplined, as we found out. … one little mistake and it's going to the house. We had some issues with that tonight.”
Both teams came out of the gates on fire. Fort Osage scored on its opening drive as Lake Sullivan scored on a 15-yard run, as he dragged several defenders into the end zone to give the Indians an early 6-0 lead.
Oak Park answered immediately, as Pankey took the first play from scrimmage 65-yards to tie the game at 6-6.
Before anyone could blink, Fort Osage landed another punch as Larenzo Fenner returned the ensuing kickoff 98-yards to give the Indians a 13-6 lead.
“Big time players are meant for big time moments,” Menne said. “They definitely showed up to the occasion. They’re just amazing, they’re electric. … they help the team out.”
Leading 20-19 late in the second quarter, the Indians marched down the field and took a comfortable lead 27-19 into halftime as Peppers lunged his way into the end zone with a 2-yard run.
With the win, Fort Osage will play Grain Valley in the quarterfinals. The Indians and Eagles are no stranger to playing each other. This will be the fourth time the two teams have played each other the past two seasons. Fort Osage is 3-0 in the previous three matchups.
“I think we’ve approached the season the same way,” Bult said of Grain Valley’s resurgence. “We kind of figured where it was going to be this time of the year. They’re going to be well-coached and disciplined. They’re not going to beat themselves. … we’re going to have to go out and beat them.”