• Preparation is key for Fort Osage's stellar defense

  • By his own admission, Fort Osage defensive coordinator Jon Oyler was “a bit stressed out” heading into last week's Class 5 state semifinal game against Ozark.

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  • By his own admission, Fort Osage defensive coordinator Jon Oyler was “a bit stressed out” heading into last week's Class 5 state semifinal game against Ozark.
    “They run a single-wing offense and I've never coached against a single wing,” Oyler said Tuesday afternoon before the Indians hit the practice field behind their multiplex building.
    “I was a bit stressed out, but then I got on a website where you can track how many hours of film your kids watch of the upcoming opponent. A lot of times guys will get on there to watch highlights of some of their big hits.”
    When Oyler saw that eight of his 11 starters had watched more than seven hours of film, he was stunned.
    “The average is about 15 to 30 minutes, and we had eight guys watch seven hours,” Oyler said, grinning. “That's why this group is so special. We've had some great defenses out here and we've had some great defensive players (including two-time Examiner Defensive Player of the Year Tony Tanumai, who graduated in 2012).
    “After I saw that, I felt a little bit better about the game. I was still stressed, because I wasn't sure what to expect from Ozark, but I knew we would be prepared.”
    That might be an understatement.
    “I have never been a part of team that has been as well prepared as we were for Ozark,” two-way standout defensive lineman/fullback Nathan Iloilo said Tuesday. “We knew what they were going to run before they even ran the play.
    “Mamu (Tauiautusa), our middle linebacker, called out 90 percent of their offensive plays, got us in the right position and we just went out and did the rest. He's the smartest teammate I've ever had.”
    The Indians held Ozark, a team that averaged 43 points and more than 300 rushing yards per game to just 61 yards on 39 carries – just 1.6 yards per attempt – in a 16-7 Fort Osage win.
    “Mamu was one of the guys who watched over seven hours of film,” Oyler said. “I'm watching the guys during the game, and they were always in the right direction. When you play as a team and have smart players, like Mamu and Nathan, you don't need the big superstars. This team is just so unselfish. Wen this season is over, man, I'm going to miss them.”
    But they have one big game left, and it takes place at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis where the Indians will meet Kirkwood for the Class 5 state title.
    “Not many of the seniors on this team were at state in 2009 when we lost the championship game,” Iloilo said. “I was there, and I remember seeing the guys down on the field crying. I don't want that to happen to my teammates this year, that's why we're working so hard this week at practice.
    Page 2 of 2 - “That's why we've worked so hard all season – to put ourselves in a position to play, and win, the state championship game.”
    As the Indians began practice, safety Joseph Tuimaseve arrived carrying a sledgehammer.
    “It's hammer time,” he joked. “I got the 'Hammer of the Week' for a hit in the Ozark game. So I get to bring the sledgehammer.”
    He then points to eight hammers that form a perfect line down the middle of his black and red helmet.
    “See those hammers?” he asked. “That's my Mohawk. I was also the defensive player of the week a couple of times – we take a lot of pride in things like that. We take a lot of pride in each other and playing for Fort Osage.
    “This isn't a team, it's a group of brothers. And we would do anything for our brothers on – and off – the football field.”
    Like watching seven hours of game film?
    “You saw how well we played,” Tauiautusa said. “That's a small sacrifice to get to go to the state championship game. We've seen a lot of film on Kirkwood and I am impressed with their speed and athleticism.
    “But I know our coaches are going to come up with a game plan that will give us the best opportunity to have success in that game. This is going to be one of the biggest weeks of our lives, and we will be ready for the game Friday night.
    “I can't guarantee a win, but I can guarantee that our coaches will put us in the best position to win and we're going to do everything we can to reward them for all their hard work.”

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