Brock Bult, a defensive assistant who had been on the sidelines with former Fort Osage High School football coach Ryan Schartz for his entire stay with the Indians, found himself in a no-win situation in 2016.
Schartz stepped down to become activities director following the first Class 5 state championship in team history. Bult was named the new head coach and inherited a team that had just one returning starter on offense and four on defense.
Following a tough 0-3 start in which many of the junior varsity players were learning what it takes to have success at the varsity level, the Indians finished the season with two big wins over longtime rival William Chrisman, including a 33-8 Class 5 District 7 semifinal home victory that Bult hopes sets the stage for this year's team.
"I definitely believe there can be a carryover from the success had at the end of last season to this season," Bult said after a spirited Wednesday morning session on the practice field west of the football field. "I think everything has been better this season. Even though I'd been a member of the coaching staff, the guys had to get used to me as the head coach and I had some things to learn. This year, throughout the summer and the first few days of practice, it just seems a lot smoother."
Although he never thought about pushing the panic button, Bult said there were some doubts when a team that averaged 10 wins a season for the previous decade started 0-3 last year.
"It was scary," he said. “Then, in Week 4, it was like something went off and they started to get it. They knew what it took to play at the varsity level and were pretty competitive the rest of the season.”
Junior Ty Baker, who had the unenviable task of replacing all-state quarterback and Indian icon Skylar Thompson, is back again this season and well ahead of the pace he set last year when he completed 86 of 185 passes for 1,194 yards, seven touchdowns and nine interceptions and ran for another 266 yards.
“It’s not easy to follow a player like Skylar, and Ty did a nice job last year,” Bult said. “And this year, he came to practice ready to go. He’s well ahead of where he was last year – most of the guys are, especially the ones who played a lot last season.”
Also back, although he was not at practice Wednesday, is all-state running back Isaiah Iloilo, who could also see some time on the defensive line. Iloilo ran for 829 yards and 11 TDs, playing in just six of Fort Osage’s 11 games as a junior while being hampered by injuries.
“We talked to Isaiah about playing some D-line and he said sure,” Bult said. “He was fine with it. We’re looking for some big things from him this season.”