It was two years ago when the Fort Osage football team won a state championship.
The Indians had an excellent defense that held opposing offenses to 16.1 points per game and a dynamic offense that scored 27 points or more in 12 of 14 games and was led by Simone Award-winning quarterback Skylar Thompson.
Things are a little bit different in 2017.
The Indians don’t have the explosive offense they had two years ago, but it has been good enough to to win games and achieve an 8-2 record. The bread and butter of the Indians this season has been a defense that has held opponents to 14.8 points per game.
That’s the defense the top-seeded Indians will lean on going into Class 5 District 7 championship game against William Chrisman at 7 p.m. Friday at Fort Osage.
The 14.8-point clip, however, is not indicative of how good Fort Osage has been on that side of the ball, head coach Brock Bult said. Some of those points were yielded by the junior varsity defense late in blowouts.
“This defense keeps getting better every week,” Bult said. “We started slow and played a lot of guys early to try and find the right guys. There has been a lot of competition on defense. That’s not something we’ve always had here – the depth. The healthy competition has made us better. Kids are pushing each other in practice and holding each other accountable on Friday night.”
Some of the players, including linebacker Von Young, defensive lineman Otto Ulberg and safety Blake Murphy, credited the team’s ability to gang tackle as its reason for success.
“We all just fly to the ball,” Murphy said. “We don’t take a play off. We just go out there in our base defense and dominate.”
At the beginning of the year, Bult was scrambling to find defensive linemen as it was short on players who naturally play that position. Valentino Ulberg and Otto Ulberg were natural offensive linemen but Bult needed a couple of other guys to play up front. So, he switched Isaiah Iloilo, a former running back, to a defensive tackle. Antonio Garcia and Dakota Robertson, whose natural positions are at outside linebacker, come up and play on the defensive line as well.
The moves have worked out for all three of them as they have combined for nine sacks.
“They’ve done it, but I can’t say they were excited about it,” Bult said of Iloilo, Garcia and Robertson changing positions. “They agreed to do it and knew it was what was best for the team. Those guys have done a great job and realized that was best for the program.”
Otto Ulberg agreed with his coach.
“Isaiah has been good,” he said. “He’s been a playmaker. He’s adjusted to it pretty well. It was a little bit of a challenge for him at first, but he fixed it.”
There were no position changes needed with the Indians linebacker corps. It’s been as deep as it’s ever been during Bult’s tenure at Fort.
Young leads that group with his 83 tackles. Mason Middleton has also been a huge part with a team-high five sacks and 87 tackles. Add Garcia and Robertson in the mix and you have one of the most talented linebacker groups in the metro area.
“This probably one of the most talented (groups),” Young said. “We’re not the biggest group of guys, but we’re the most confident.”
Added Bult: “It’s the deepest we had in awhile. I give them credit, they play hard and do what we tell them to. A lot of times (the linebackers) are running free because of our defensive lineman. The linebackers have been playing good regardless of who we put out there.”
In the secondary, Fort Osage has a lot of team speed, including guys like Ben Long and Ky’Von Smith. While that group has totaled 10 interceptions, pass coverage is something the Indians have been looking to shore up during the playoffs.
“Our pass coverage needs a lot more work,” Murphy said. “But we’ve been doing a good job stopping the run.”
Added Bult: “We just keep working on the fundamentals and that starts with watching film.”
The Indians will lean on their defense in the playoffs against some high-powered offenses it could potentially face.
“We’re just going to do their job and let the offense do their thing,” Otto Ulberg said.