Brock Bult, the second-year football head coach at Fort Osage High School, points out linebacker Mason Middleton to a visitor in the school’s commons area.
“Isn’t he the most intimidating Class 5 middle linebacker you’ve ever seen?” chuckled Bult, the man who helped build one of the most devastating defenses in the state before taking over as head coach when Ryan Schartz moved took over as the Fort Osage activities director. “He’s not the biggest or the strongest or the fastest middle linebacker we’ve had, but I don’t know where we’d have been without him this season.”
Middleton stands 5-foot-9 and swears he weighs 165 pounds.
Maybe, if he’s soaking wet and holding a 5-pound bag of sugar.
“I think it’s more like 150 pounds, to be honest with you, but you can’t measure heart,” Bult added. “And that kid has as much heart as anyone I’ve coached at Fort Osage. He’s a gamer, and he’s so smart. His football IQ is off the charts.”
The Indians are going to need another solid performance tonight from Middleton and his defensive cohorts as they play host to their arch rival, the 11-0 Staley Falcons, in a Class 5 quarterfinal showdown.
The Falcons are averaging well over 49 points a game this season and the lone team to hold them under that total is Bult’s Indians, who lost a 22-15 conference matchup earlier this season.
“We have so much respect for Staley,” Middleton said, “but we’re not afraid of them. We know what they can do and we know what we can do. And more importantly, we know what we have to do to beat them and that’s top their offense.
“No team has held them under 42 points except us, and we lost that game. It was close, but we know we can play with them – now, we get to play them on our field Friday night, which is going to be amazing.”
Middleton manages to battle through his emotions as he talks about what will be his last home game and the final game ever played on real grass at Fort Osage as the school is getting artificial turf next year.
“When I was a kid, I was always the smallest kid on my team, so I think I always worked as hard, or harder, than any of my teammates, just to survive in football,” said Middleton, who leads Fort Osage this season with 102 tackles, including 19 tackles for loss. “When I was growing up, Fort Osage was great. It seemed like every year they were winning conference and playing to go to state. And then, when I was a sophomore, we won state and I got to dress for that game. It was the biggest thrill I ever had.
“Now, we’re playing Staley to get to go to (the state semifinals). I mean, we’re playing a game with all the guys I grew up with – all my football brothers – and we’re the guys who are trying to get us to state.
“It’s at home, it’s the last game on grass, and it’s going to be special. People tell me all the time how special Friday night under the lights at Fort Osage is and I’ve been blessed to have been a part of it the last four years.
“Now, it’s all about to end. Friday is my last home game – and I can’t believe it’s gone by so fast. It seems like I was just a little kid in the stands watching all my favorite Fort Osage players, dreaming about being out there playing with them.”
Now, he’s the little kid making the big tackles for a defense that has to rise to the occasion to stop a juggernaut.