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Examiner
  • Indians bring confidence to showdown with Kirkwood

  • As members of the Fort Osage High School football team began their Tuesday afternoon practice session, a television crew arrived on the scene to present senior quarterback Steven McBee with the Hy-Vee Athlete of the Week award.

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  • As members of the Fort Osage High School football team began their Tuesday afternoon practice session, a television crew arrived on the scene to present senior quarterback Steven McBee with the Hy-Vee Athlete of the Week award.
    The cameraman implored the Indians to clap and cheer after McBee was presented the trophy.
    On cue, they whooped and hollered and applauded and pounded McBee on the back.
    The cameraman was a bit taken back by their enthusiasm.
    “That is the best response we have had from any team this season,” the cameraman said.
    That would come as no surprise to anyone who has followed the Indians during the memorable season that finds them playing Kirkwood at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis for the Class 5 state championship.
    When they are asked to do something, they do it right the first time. This is Fort Osage's second trip to the title game in the past four years. And this group wants to bring back the top prize.
    “This group is special,” coach Ryan Schartz said. “It's our best defense – the numbers prove that – and the guys really care about each other. They talk about family and brotherhood, and I think that's a big reason they have surprised so many people this season.
    “I don't think before this season started, anyone would have picked us to go to state. I don't know if I'd have picked us – Lee's Summit West looked awfully good.”
    But the mighty Titans were upset by Ozark 26-23 in the state quarterfinals, matching the Tigers single-wing offense against a rock-solid Fort Osage defense that had recorded seven shutouts this season along with two games where they allowed just a single score and field goal.
    Fort Osage held Ozark, a team that had averaged 43 points per game and more than 300 yards on the ground, to just 61 yards on 39 rushing attempts and an early touchdown in a 16-7 state semifinal win.
    “I didn't know how good we were going to be this season,” McBee said, “but I knew we were going to have a great defense. And defense is so important in a championship season.
    “You could tell the defensive guys wanted to prove everyone wrong. Anyone who said we weren't going to be any good just fired up our guys. And now, I'm just glad I don't have to play against them.”
    The mastermind behind the Fort Osage defense is former Blue Springs South all-state linebacker Jon Oyler, who spent many sleepless nights during the postseason watching film of Indian opponents.
    “We take it pretty seriously, all the coaches do,” Oyler said when asked about game preparation. “But these kids work hard too. We had eight of our 11 starters watch more than seven hours of film before the Ozark game because we'd never played against a single win.
    Page 2 of 2 - “And I know they're going to be watching that much film on Kirkwood. They're a big, physical, fast team. We're going to have our work cut out for us, but these guys don't shy away from work.
    “And they are the most unselfish team I've ever coached. We might have 20 to 25 guys play on defense. We might have seniors lose their starting role to underclassmen, and they don't care because they know we're trying to make the team better.
    “We don't have any single player with the glowing stats, because everyone on this defense contributes. They are very good football players and they have a high football IQ. And you combine those two things and you're going to win a lot of games.”
    The practice tone this week has been light and lively.
    Two-way starter Ezra Vaoifi roars into the practice session imploring his teammates to “practice like we're playing for the state title.”
    Safety Joseph Tuimaseve arrives carrying a sledgehammer, signifying that he won the coveted “Hammer of the Week” honor for a big hit against Ozark.
    Oyler stands in the background, shying away from the television cameras and all the distractions.
    And Schartz takes it all in, knowing just how special this week might be.
    “Coach Schartz is always telling us to enjoy this because not too many teams get the chance to play for a state title,” McBee said. “And we are enjoying it. We're working hard, but we're enjoying it, too.
    “We were so fortunate to win our last home game (against Ozark). To see our fans rush out onto the field to congratulate us after that win was surreal, almost like a dream come true.
    “Now, we want to give them something to cheer about at the Dome.”
     
     
     

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