Young QB has strong game in win over ranked Liberty North
By Stephen Bubalo
For the first two games of the season, the Fort Osage offense went through running back Ezra Vaoifi, and for good reason, as the senior tallied up a shade more than 550 yards on the ground.
But Friday night, sophomore quarterback Skylar Thompson and the passing game got the chance to flex their muscles with Liberty North doing its best to shut down Vaoifi, and they didn't disappoint.
Thompson finished the game 13-of-17 for 231 yards and four total touchdowns, three coming through the air, as the Indians routed the Eagles 42-7.
“We had a good game plan,” Thompson said. “We knew we could have some success throwing the ball. They want to stop the run and we wanted to prove we have a good passing game.
“They play a Cover 3 and are soft on the corners. We knew we could get the underneath stuff. Our motto this week was Y.A.C. – yards after catch. The wide receivers did a great job.”
And all the receivers had a hand in the passing game on this night.
Junior Jesse McBee was Thompson's favorite target on the first drive for the Class 5 No. 3-ranked Indians, catching three passes for 42 yards and eventually scoring the game's first touchdown on a 4-yard run.
After the Eagles tied the game at 7-all on their next drive – thanks to a roughing the punter penalty to extend the drive – Thompson found Donte Dodson from 22 yards out for a score on what was a one-play drive thanks to Vaoifi's 77-yard kickoff return. That made it 14-7 and the Indians were off from there.
A 1-yard touchdown run by Thompson – aided by two big catches from Willie Penamon – made it 21-7 before Dodson struck again, this time on a short pass to the sideline that he turned into a 42-yard score and a 28-7 halftime lead.
“It's always good when you tell the kids this is what can happen and it goes that way,” Indians head coach Ryan Schartz said of the game plan this week. “We wanted to take it underneath and make them tackle us. I was pleased we were able to distribute the ball to a lot of guys.”
Vaoifi broke the game open on the first play of the second half – an 80-yard touchdown run – before Bailey Williamson capped the scoring with a 23-yard touchdown catch on yet another short throw and a broken tackle.
“We saw a lot of bubble screens and we weren't able to get off blocks,” Eagles head coach Ken Clemens said. “Then, later in the game we started to miss tackles. I'm surprised we weren't able to make plays out in space.”
Clemens also saw his offense sputter after it looked so good on its scoring drive in the first quarter. Junior quarterback Brian Sharp was 5-for-5 on the drive but would go on to only complete four more passes the rest of the game.
“They went down bam, bam, bam – (Sharp) was on the money and I was concerned,” Schartz said of the Eagles' scoring drive. “But once the defense settles down, they play well. From that point on they were lights out.”
Both teams came into Friday night's game having been lights out often during the early part of the season, sitting at 2-0 and in the top 10 in the state of their respective classes.
In fact, the 42 points allowed by the Class 4 No. 6 Eagles were the first they had allowed all season.
“We talked about this game being a test but the rest test will be how they respond next week,” Clemens said.
Meanwhile, the Indians continue to roll along, moving to 3-0 and showing their offense can be much more than just a strong running game. They have lots of options and a young quarterback that is only getting better.
“I have confidence in all my wide receivers and they have confidence in me. They make my job a lot easier,” Thompson said. “Every week I'm getting more and more comfortable. We're not going to stop. We're going to keep plugging. We're going to stay hungry.”