There were a couple sputters Friday night in the machine that is Fort Osage football.
But the Class 5 second-ranked Indians appear primed for the playoffs after a 42-14 thumping of overmatched visitor Belton in which they did all their scoring in the first half.
Fort Osage completed a 9-0 regular season, polished off their sixth Suburban Middle Seven title (6-0) in eight seasons and earned a first-round bye in the District 7 playoffs. It will host a second-round game Nov. 6, and Indians coach Ryan Schartz said his team will welcome the extra time off.
“We’ve got some guys that are beat up and need to rest,” he said. “The first three series we scored so fast, but I wasn’t happy with the drive that stalled out and we missed the field goal. Offensively, we could’ve played better than we did.
“Penalties – we have to get better with those. We can’t be getting first-and-20, second-and-25. It’s hard to overcome that.”
The Indians were penalized seven times, but most of those came after they forced a trio of three-and-outs and rang up a 21-0 lead in the game’s first six minutes, 27 seconds.
On Fort Osage’s third play, Skylar Thompson zipped a 39-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Rush, hitting his fellow sophomore in stride over the middle. Thompson’s 10-yard toss to Willie Penamon capped a seven-play possession, and Ezra Vaoifi took an option pitch to the right and darted along the sideline for a 60-yard touchdown.
That was the first of four touchdown runs by Vaoifi, who finished with 194 yards on 18 first-half carries. The senior running back finished the regular season with 1,586 yards (8.3 per carry) and 21 touchdowns on the ground. Thompson completed 5 of 9 passes for 75 yards before also sitting out the second half, and Kevin Costanzi rushed for 84 yards on 10 tries (including a 59-yarder before halftime) after replacing Vaoifi.
“We’re doing a pretty good job,” Vaoifi said, surrounded by all his blockers, as is the norm during a postgame interview. “We started out strong tonight and got ready for the playoffs.
“Skylar’s still learning back there, but he’s doing a good job. With five senior linemen and a senior running back, it takes the pressure off him.”
An illegal block wiped out Vaoifi taking a screen pass 68 yards for a touchdown on Fort Osage’s next possession, and Bryce Richardson’s tipped pass interception that gave the Indians possession at the Belton 28 went for naught with a field goal try that drifted to the left.
But Vaoifi had short TD runs on three second-quarter possessions. Jacob Jacobs interception gave the Indians just 12 yards to cover before the second one, and a swarm blocked a Belton (2-7, 2-4) punt to put the ball at the 5 before Vaoifi’s final touchdown, which made the score 42-0 with 4:22 before halftime.
Schartz started shuffling in backups at that point, and the Indians preserved the first-half shutout when Jamison Raines covered a Belton fumble inside the 10.
Sophomore defensive lineman Sima Thomas said the defense, which has yielded just 63 points this season, simply needs to continue playing cohesively in the playoffs.
“I think we’re playing like I hoped we would,” he said. “We’re playing pretty close right now, but it’d be cool if we could get even closer.”
Schartz let his reserves handle the entire second half. Belton scored on Louis Mckamey’s 2-yard run in the third quarter and Daren Johnson’s 59-yard quarterback keeper with 1:12 left, giving the Pirates the most points of any Fort Osage opponent this season. Zach Willis rumbled for 142 yards on 24 rushes, but the Indians harassed Johnson, originally a receiver who took over for injured starter Tucker Perkins in the fifth week, into 5-of-15 passing for 41 yards.
“Our defense has been solid all year,” Schartz said. “I love how we’re taking the ball away from people. They gave us a short field all night.”