“Hey, is Sima Thomas here?”
The question rang through the Fort Osage High School football locker room, as the Indians prepared for their Meet the Indians scrimmage and the rededication of the totally revamped football stadium that now features artificial turf, a new track, renovated bleachers and press box and a concessions area on the visitors side of the stadium.
“If Sima’s here,” quipped assistant head coach Lance Barrett, this must be a big deal.”
Thomas,a key player and leader on the Indians’ state championship defensive unit back in 2015, was joined by many former Indians who came to the high school Friday night to check out all the attractions.
“I don’t know about all this new stuff,” joked Thomas, a former Examiner Defensive Player of the Year who is now starring at Pittsburg State University, “I don’t want my boys to get soft – Charmin soft.
“Air conditioning (in the weight room), turf out there on the field – hey! I’m just kidding. I love it! I am so proud that all the former Indian players, who created such a great legacy at Fort Osage, had something to do with all this happening.
“I am so happy for the players – I just wish all this would have been here when I was playing.”
Ironically, 1963 Fort Osage grad Terry Nelson, one of the first fans to arrive at the Meet the Indians and stadium rededication Friday night, said the same thing.
“I want to let you in on a little history,” Nelson said as the Indians marching band took the field following a series of games featuring Fort Osage Little League Football teams.
“Back in 1963, 50 years ago, we didn’t have a track at the high school. Our track coach, Joe Keeton, got in a car and drove around the (football practice field, located just west of the stadium) field and marked off a quarter mile.
“That was our track. As everyone knows, this will be the first year the team will play on artificial turf and I love that. I’m happy for the kids. Back when I played, I remember playing games in rain and mud and I’d get knocked to the field and have a mouthful of mud. That was not a pleasant experience.
“I think you can tell by the crowd here tonight that everyone in the community is excited about this football team and the new stadium.”
Fort Osage activities director Ryan Schartz was coming out of the new press box when he was greeted by a former player.
“The only bad thing about tonight is that there are so many people here I want to talk to and I can’t. I have to keep everything going, working like clockwork, to get the little kids football teams on and off the field, get our band out there – so much to do, but I’m not complaining.
“Look out there, there are guys I coached back when I was one of Coach (Jerry) Boyce’s assistant coaches coaching those little league teams. That’s so cool.”
He paused a moment and looked at the overflow crowd filling the new bleachers.
“We all wondered how many fans would be here tonight,” Schartz said, “and look at it. The parking lots were full an hour and a half before we started tonight. Our fans are the best!”
And they couldn’t wait to see their new sports complex.
“This is a great testimony from our community,” Fort Osage Superintendent Jason Snodgrass said as he greeted fans and walked through the complex, “because they have heard about what we were doing here – and now, they are seeing it in person. And look at this turnout!
“This new stadium, with the turf and the new track, will be used by people in the community, by our PE classes, our soccer and football teams – a lot of people are going to benefit from this.
“And we did it right – we left no stone unturned. We had the right people in on the decision-making process, from the press box and bleachers to the handicapped seating area and our new ticket booth.
“I really believe this is one of the most historic days in history of our school district.”
Principal Scott Moore, a social media guru who chronicled the entire build process via his camera and drone, added, “This rededication is a day we will always remember. This is our legacy and tonight is going to be very special.”
Before he led his team onto the field for the Meet the Indians scrimmage, Indians head coach Brock Bult praised everyone involved with the new design.
“It’s exciting for everyone,” Bult said. “Plus, tonight we can get the jitters and excitement of playing in our new stadium out of the way during a scrimmage so we don’t have to worry about that when Raytown South comes over here to open the season next Friday.”
Quarterback Ty Baker, who has committed to Missouri State University, said the big night has many benefits.
“We get to show off the stadium,” Baker said, “show off our team and have some fun without worrying about playing against a real opponent. We’re all going to have some fun tonight, then get back to work tomorrow.”