Tyler Titus is soaking it all in.
It's the last time he's ever going to play with Fort Osage High School teammates and fellow seniors Griffin Bledsoe, Ezra Vaoifi and Dalton Miller – whom he's been teammates with since they were age 4.
Now, the Fort Osage safety is on the biggest stage on the state line as he and his Missouri teammates brace for their Kansas counterparts in Thursday's 7 p.m. Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association’s Kansas vs. Missouri All-Star Game at Blue Springs High School's Peve Stadium.
“I can't wait for Thursday night,” Titus said before Monday's practice session at Raytown South High School. “The coaches are awesome, my Missouri teammates are awesome and I get to share this experience with three of my teammates from Fort Osage.
“When I got the call that I'd made the team I couldn't believe it. Now, here I am, a Missouri all-star.”
While he has been a standout on Indian teams that have become a perennial Class 5 state contender in recent years, Titus says practicing with his all-star teammates takes the game to the next level.
“This is really different than a regular football practice,” Titus explained. “When you start a new season, it takes a while for everyone to get on the same page. That's not the case here. We don't have that much time to practice for Thursday's game, and after the first practice, it was like, 'Let's go, we're ready.'
“I guess that's what it's like when you practice with some of the best players in the state. With me, Griff, Dalton and Ezra, we all know what to expect from each other. But after just a couple of practices, we knew what to expect from guys we'd never played with. It's pretty amazing to see it all come together.”
Like so many of his teammates, Titus hopes to end his high school career with that elusive win. The Indians dropped a heartbreaking and controversial 13-9 Class 5 state quarterfinal loss to Kearney that ended when Kearney stripped the ball away from Indians wide receiver Willie Penamon on the Kearney 8-yard line with 30 seconds left in the game. A photo that ran in The Examiner clearly showed Penamon's knee was down seconds before the ball was stripped away.
“We lost that game to Kearney, and now, we're teammates with guys from Kearney,” Titus said, pointing out one of the benefits of playing in an all-star game. “We didn't like them, and I'm sure they didn't like us, and now we're teammates. And the first day of practice, it was a little weird being on the same team.
“But that's one of the best parts of this game. We're playing with the guys from Kearney and the guys from Staley (whom the Indians defeated two years ago en route to their second trip to the Class 5 state championship game).
“You find out they're great guys, who would have been great teammates if we had gone to the same schools. But, because we went to different schools, we were big rivals. Now, we practice together and we get to play on the same team Thursday. That's one the best things I'm going to remember about this game.”
He also wants to look back on a Missouri win that would even the all-time record at 11 victories for each team.
“We want to win, of course – that's why you play the game. But we want to really play well because the game is practically in our backyard,” Titus added. “I know so many kids from Fort Osage are going to the game.
“And I'm in the same secondary with Antwon President (a member of the two-time defending Class 6 state championship Blue Springs football team), and I know how much he wants to win in his own stadium.
“He won his last high school game, and it's up to all of us to make sure he wins again Thursday night. We all want to be a part of history, and we're working hard to make sure we have a good performance and get a win for the hometown fans – and each other.”