In the first 32-plus minutes of Friday’s Class 5 District 7 championship game, Fort Osage was having trouble getting anything going against William Chrisman’s defense.
The Bears just took a 10-7 lead on Jaden Thomas’ 35-yard field goal with 4:51 left in the third. Fort’s offense needed a shot of adrenaline.
Enter Kaia Tupinio.
Tupinio, who plays multiple positions and is the Indians’ backup quarterback, subbed in for starting signal caller Ty Baker and made an immediate impact. He and running back Blake Robertson ran the wildcat formation to near perfection, and he led the the team to a go-ahead touchdown drive late in the third to help Fort Osage take a 24-10 victory at home.
The Indians will get a rematch against Staley – who won the regular season meeting with the Indians 22-15 and defeated Liberty 49-24 Friday in the Class 5 District 8 championship game – in the Class 5 state quarterfinals at 7 p.m. next Friday.
Fort Osage’s offense was ineffective up to that point and Tupinio gave his team the jolt it needed. After a personal foul penalty gave Fort Osage a first down, Tupinio had runs of 8, 13, 5 to get the team to the red zone. Brandon Gregory’s 19 yard run set up the Indians at the Chrisman 1 and fullback Derick Krones punched it in from there to give them a 14-10 edge.
“We were repping a lot of wildcat stuff in practice with everyone,” Tupinio said. “It just worked out well with everyone.
“Lately we’ve been a second-half team. We start slow and the second half comes through and we’re just on it.”
Added Fort Osage head coach Brock Bult of Tupinio: “He does a lot of things for us – receiver, quarterback, tailback. He’s done it all for us when we needed him to. He stepped in when he needed to. He’s a great kid and a great athlete.”
Tupinio rushed for 74 yards on just nine carries. Robertson tallied a team-high 94 yards rushing on 12 carries, 48 yards of which came out of the wildcat formation.
“We had an extra blocker, which always helps,” Robertson said of the wildcat. “All the reps in practice paid off.”
While Tupinio getting involved in the offense late was a huge boost for the Indians (9-2), the biggest play for them came on Chrisman’s next drive. The Bears made their fourth trip to the red zone and made it to the Fort Osage 10. They were unable to punch it in. Freshman running back Siaosi Nauer took the snap in the wildcat formation and lobbed one up for defensive lineman Daniel Carson, who was lined up as a tight end. The ball went over Carson’s head and was intercepted in the back of the end zone by Blake Murphy.
“That was very smart on their part to put a big guy in the end zone like that,” Fort Osage defensive end Isaiah Iloilo said. “They threw it up there and Blake came up huge. Without that, it would have been a lot closer.”
Chrisman coach Matthew Perry said he felt a missed call affected the play.
“Daniel got held really bad on that play,” Perry said. “They didn’t call it and it ruined the play.”
“We couldn’t finish drives and that’s been our problem all season long. Unfortunately, we have an offseason to think about that.”
From there for was able to drive the ball down to the Chrisman 4 and Jake Lammering drilled a 32-yard field goal to make it 17-10 with 3:43 remaining. On Chrisman’s next possession, it couldn’t get a first down as Iloilo had a sack of quarterback Dawson Herl, and an incompletion gave the Indians the ball back at the Bears 25 following a turnover on downs.
Tupinio put it away with a 4-yard TD run with 23 seconds left.
The Bears made noticeable improvements on offense since their 23-0 defeat to Fort Osage in the regular season. But they were only able to score 10 points on four trips to the red zone, including a second-quarter, 27-yard scoring pass from Herl to Kelyvn Mason on fourth-and-14, in which Herl evaded two pass rushers.
“Chrisman had us off balance, I have to give them credit,” Bult said. “Our defense just made the plays when it needed to.”
But it was Iloilo and the Indian defense that was able to fend off a much improved Chrisman offense. Iloilo, who was a running back last season, was able to relive 2016 when he scored his team’s first touchdown from 2 yards out at the 1:53 mark in the second.
“It feels so great to get back in there and run the ball,” Iloilo said. “I can’t even give myself credit for that touchdown. Wide open holes every time. They give me those holes every time we go jumbo (package). I have faith in them every single time I get up there.”
Added Bult: “I know he likes it whenever he gets to carry the ball but I sure like the look of him when he’s on the D-line.”
Chrisman ends its season at 7-4 and will be losing a bevy of seniors including Carson and all-state linebacker Emori Thomas.
“You can’t replace those guys,” Perry said of his seniors. “We just have the young guys will step up. We’ll take a step back defensively, but the good thing is that pretty much the offense will be back in tact.”