In the regular season, Fort Osage was on the brink of upsetting a then-No. 2 state-ranked Staley when it had a 15-14 lead with 2:21 remaining.

Late in the game, the Indians forced Staley into a fourth-and-17 situation. The Falcons found a way to convert it and eventually scored the game-winning touchdown with 46 seconds left and won the game 22-15.

It was a heartbreaking first loss for the Indians against a Suburban Middle Six rival. Fort Osage now has a chance for revenge against the now No. 1 state-ranked Falcons (11-0) at 7 p.m. today at home in the Class 5 state quarterfinals.

Fort Osage (9-2), the No. 4-ranked team, defeated crosstown rival William Chrisman 24-10 in the Class 5 District 7 finals last week to advance. Staley blew out Liberty 49-24 in its district championship.

During the regular season, Indians defensive end Isaiah Iloilo took the loss to Staley hard after the team fell in a winnable game. For him, he’s looking for the Indians to earn respect against the top team in Class 5.

“The last game is behind us and we’ve been looking forward to playing them again,” Iloilo said. “People are going to try to overlook us and people do overlook us. I don’t think Fort Osage gets the respect that the program as a whole should.”

Getting past the Falcons will be far from an easy task, though, as they are excellent in all three phases of the game.

On offense, Staley is led by dual-threat quarterback John Raybourn, a possible contender for the Simone Award, which goes to the metro area’s top player. He’s spearheaded an offense that has put up an absurd 48.9 points per game and has scored less than 40 points only one time – in the win over Fort Osage.

Raybourn is a huge part of that. He has 2,659 yards passing, 729 rushing and 45 total touchdowns. He also has plenty of weapons at his disposal, including a pair of productive running backs in Aaron Keast (871 total rushing and receiving yards, 6 TDs) and Jaden Moss (554 total yards, 13 TDs); and talented receivers in JD Benbow (1,052 yards, 23 TDs), Rod Criss II (831 yards, 14 TDs) and tight end Zach Elam (710 yards, 11 TDs).

That’s a lot of weapons to contend with for the Fort Osage defense.

“We just need to do what we did last time, but do it better,” Iloilo said.

There are two major positives for the Indians, however. They are the only team to hold Staley under 40 points and have one of the best defenses in the Kansas City area. Coming into this game, Fort Osage has given up just 14.6 points per game.

“It’s going to take all 11 of our guys doing their job,” Fort Osage head coach Brock Bult said. “They are very balanced and you can’t key on one thing. We just have to fly to the ball. That’s what we did last time.”

On offense, the Indians face a defense that has a lot of team speed and size up front. Staley has held opponents to just 14.2 points per game and a lot of that can be credited to the variety of looks it has thrown at opponents. That’s helped the Falcons rack up 37 sacks in 11 games.

“They blitz a lot, especially with their linebackers,” said sophomore Kaia Tupinio, a versatile back/receiver. “So we’re really going to have to pick up the blitz to give Ty (Baker) time to throw. If we can stop the blitz, we’ll be fine.”

Added Bult: “They are really aggressive and they make you be patient. They take away the big plays and make you drive. Same concept we use. We’re two similar teams.”

For Bult, the key to being successful on offense is simple.

“We’re going to have to be balanced and patient,” he said. “They are going to put us in bad situations and we’re going to have to punt and play for field position at times. As long as we can be patient and take what they give us, we’ll be all right.”

The Indians acknowledge that this will be the toughest game of the year so far. But the Indians have something to prove and something to play for. Today’s game is the last time Fort Osage will play on its grass field before it’s replaced with artificial turf next season.

“I love the grass, this will be our very last game playing on it,” Iloilo said. “After this game, there is no chance of playing on this field again – ever. Looking back, a lot of history that’s been made on that field. And there will be more history made on it when the turf comes.”