For a few moments, it was evident it had been 10 days since Ryan Schartz's Fort Osage squad had played a football game.
The undefeated Indians drew an opening-round bye, and went into Wednesday night's Class 5 District 7 matchup with North Kansas City battling a few butterflies and needing to shake off a bit of rust.
After Jesse McBee's opening kickoff return for a touchdown (please see story below), North Kansas City drove 61 yards to knot the score at 7-all on a 3-yard run by quarterback Cardell Crawford.
After that score, the Indians racked up 42 consecutive points and limited the Hornet to just 61 yards of total offense in a 49-7 rout that sets up a district title matchup at 7 p.m. against Winnetonka next Monday at Fort Osage.
“We battled some early jitters,” said Fort Osage sophomore quarterback Skylar Thompson, who was 8-of-12 passing for 127 yards and two scores. “Once we saw Jesse get the touchdown and the way the defense put the clamps on their offense after that first score, we went out and played Fort Osage football.”
And that meant the all-senior offensive line, nicknamed the “Big Smarties” for their academic prowess, provided monstrous holes for Ezra Vaoifi, who finished the night with 17 carries for 197 yards and two touchdowns; Herman Tapusoa, who provided countless key blocks for Vaoifi and scored on an 18-yard run; and Thompson, who rushed for 41 yards and added a 21-yard touchdown on the ground.
“It all starts with the Big Smarties,” Vaoifi said. “They open the holes, and we get to do the rest. Skylar had a lot of time to pass the ball tonight, and Herman got in on the offense, too. He is so important blocking, and it's great to see him get in the end zone.”
The touchdown was significant for Tapusoa, who dedicated the game to his late uncle, Tuli Leota.
“My uncle passed away Sunday, and I've been thinking a lot about him,” Tapusoa said. “I dedicated the game to him, and thanks to some great blocks, I was able to score a touchdown for him. That means a lot to me and my family.”
While Vaoifi, Thompson and Tapusoa get the headlines, the “Big Smarties” get the satisfaction of a job well done – and cookies – often supplied by Vaoifi and the coaching staff.
“This is a great win,” offensive lineman Blake Griffin said, “because we went out and did what we were supposed to do. We beat them (49-7) in the regular season, and they were missing some of their best players. Those players were back tonight – and we wanted to make a statement.”
Dalton Miller agreed, adding, “A win like this just makes me happy. We weren't looking past North Kansas City to our next opponent; we just took care of business tonight.”
Lineman Joey Neidel was quick to jump into the conversation.
“We don't want anything to change because this is the postseason,” Neidel said. “We wanted to show what we can do, and we did. The game got off to a little bit of a slow start with them scoring, but after that, it was Fort Osage football.”
And Fort Osage football usually means Vaoifi and Thompson are big contributors.
“It's so much fun to block for Ezra,” Logan Stephens said. “You give him a hole, and he makes a big play. And Skylar was great tonight. I love it when he throws a touchdown and sprints down the field to congratulate whoever caught the pass. That shows how much he loves the game, and we love him.”
Not to be overshadowed by an offense that racked up 447 total yards of offense, the Indians defense was anchored by linebacker Nathan Iloilo, who had two interceptions (one that was returned for a touchdown, only to be nullified by a penalty), two sacks, a forced fumble and four tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
“We didn't get off to a good start, with them scoring on that first drive,” Iloilo said, “but we settled down, shook off the rust and got after it and played the way we're capable of playing. We knew after that first score they weren't going to score again. We wanted to shove that ball down their throats.”