When Ryan Schartz took over a struggling Fort Osage High School football program that had lost 19 games in a row, he said his top priority was developing a tough-nosed defense.
He won his first game as the Indians head coach nine years ago to end that two-year skid and since that time has led Fort Osage to two Class 5 state championship appearances.
While his offense put 49 points on the scoreboard Thursday night in a 49-7 mercy-clock win at North Kansas City High School, Schartz wanted to talk about his defense.
“I said from day one, if we want to win, we have to have a salty defense,” said Schartz, whose Indians improved to 8-0 with the lopsided victory. “Look at what the defense did tonight: The starters didn't allow a point, and what did they have, something like two first downs in the first half?
“The play by Tyler Titus was a game changer, even though you might not think that when you look at the score. But he batted away a pass that looked like it was going to be a long touchdown, kept them off the board and put us in a good position.
“The offense was great tonight with Ezra (Vaoifi) and Skylar (Thompson) and the offensive line just blowing people off the line, but the defense put the offense in a great position on the field all night lone.”
On their first possession, it appeared the underdog Hornets might get on the scoreboard first as Bryce Gaskamper unloaded a long pass that looked to be right on target to his receiver.
But Titus used his great jumping ability to knock the ball down and set up the Indians first score, a 5-yard Vaoifi run.
“This defense is so good,” said Titus, who added an interception and a head's-up play when he grabbed an onside kick later in the game. “You want to give it everything you have when you play for a team like Fort Osage.
“We're not teammates, we're brothers. Most of us have played on the same Little League teams since we were in fourth or fifth grade. We've grown up dreaming of this moment, a season like this. And the defense and offense feed off each other.
“We know if we make a big stand, the offense is going to put the ball in the end zone.”
The heart and soul of the Indians defense is senior defensive end/linebacker Nathan Iloilo, who spent as much time in the Hornets backfield as their trio of backs.
“We love to make the big defensive plays because we know the offense is going to do something special after they get the ball,” Iloilo said. “Earlier in the year I said this defense might even be better than last year's defense. We'll have to see what happens the rest of the season, but I am so proud to be a part of this team and this defense.”
The Indians are playing with a new defensive coordinator in longtime assistant Brock Bult. He replaced Jon Oyler, who left Fort Osage to return to his alma mater, Blue Springs South.
“I can't say enough good things about Brock and what he's meant to our defense,” Schartz said. “When our former defensive coordinator left, I know there were some concerns. But Brock has stepped in an added instant creditability to the position, and the kids love working with him.”