Fort Osage running back Ezra Vaoifi went into Thursday night’s Country Mart GKCFCA Kansas vs. Missouri All-Star Game with a chip the size of a two-by-four on his shoulder.
And try as they might, the Kansas all-stars couldn’t knock it off.
“I admit it, I came into the game mad, with a chip on my shoulder, because I was not asked to be on the original roster,” said Vaoifi, who led Missouri with eight points and finished the night with 61 yards on 13 carries in Missouri’s 22-21 victory that evened the all-time series at 11 wins each.
“When they called to ask me to play, after I was overlooked the first time around, I could have said no. I even thought about it, but what would that have proved? I wanted to prove I was one of the best backs in the area, and tonight, I think I did.”
So did his Fort Osage teammates, offensive linemen Griffin Bledsoe and Dalton Miller, who were on the field when Vaoifi scored on a 14-yard run to spark the comatose Missouri offense right before half and cut the Kansas lead to 14-6.
Vaoifi broke free from a Kansas defender who had him by the back of his jersey, and he plowed his way into the end zone despite the effort of three would-be Kansas tacklers.
He later scored a huge two-point conversion and paved the way for a dramatic Missouri come-from-behind victory Thursday night at Peve Stadium before a crowd of more than 3,200 fans.
“We know what Ezra can do,” Bledsoe said. “Now, everyone knows what he can do. He played a big part in this win. And it feels so good to win our final high school game together.”
Miller backed that comment, adding, “Playing with Griff and Ezra made my job easier. They know what to expect from me, and I know what to expect from them. It took a while for our offense to get going, but once it did we got into a pretty good groove in the second half.
“We had that bad first half, but when Ezra scored right before halftime we knew the second half was going to be a different game. Then, our defense held on at the end. It’s just so sweet to win this game.”
Vaoifi will not be joining any of his Missouri all-star teammates in the college ranks this fall as he is waiting his assignment for a two-year mission trip.
“I find out where I’m going Friday morning,” Vaoifi said. “I can’t wait. That’s another reason his game meant so much to me. Other guys get to go play in college, and this is my last game for two years, so I really wanted to get a win – and we got it together.”
• Following the game, the Missouri all-stars posed for photos, visited with their parents, friends and high school teammates and savored the moment. Lee’s Summit North running back Josh Caldwell, who scored on a 5-yard run and finished the game with nine carries for 68 yards, approached Vaoifi about a picture.
“I need a picture with my teammate,” Caldwell said, grinning.
Vaoifi then joined Miller, Bledsoe and Tyler Titus for a group shot of the four Fort Osage all-stars.
• The best line of the night came from Bledsoe’s stepfather, Mike Grandgenett.
“When I heard them announce that Plowboys Barbecue was being served in the press box, I was afraid Griff was going to leave the field and go get a pulled pork sandwich during the game.”
Without skipping a beat, Bledsoe quipped, “I thought about it.”
• Blue Springs South linebacker Josh Watson won the Ronald Warren Outstanding Linebacker Award, which is named after the former Southeast High School linebacker who was killed in a traffic accident in 1993.
“I didn’t know about Ronald Warren or the award until I was notified I had won,” said Watson, who was unable to attend the game because he is already at Colorado State University. “It’s a real honor. I thank everyone who voted for me.”
His father Steve Watson, a member of the 1990 undefeated Raytown South basketball team, accepted the award for his son.