Belton made it no secret what its offensive strategy was in the first half of Friday's Class 5 District 7 championship game against Fort Osage.
The Pirates lined up in the wildcat formation, with eight offensive linemen and two fullbacks and the center snapped it to the lone running back – Ayden Holt or Amo Asaeli – on every play.
After struggling to stop it in the first half, Fort Osage held Belton scoreless in the second half to earn a 28-7 victory at home.
“We knew it was going to take awhile (to slow Belton’s rushing attack),” Fort head coach Brock Bult said. “There’s no way you can simulate that in practice.”
The Indians (7-4) will play Staley, which defeated North Kansas City 44-0 in another district game, next week in the state quarterfinals, tentatively set for 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17.
Belton (4-8) got the ball to the Indian 2-yard line on the first drive, but the Indians forced a turnover on downs.
From there, Fort Osage marched to the Belton 12. But senior quarterback Ty Baker threw an interception on a pass intended for senior Blake Robertson in the back of the end zone.
On its next possession, Fort Osage went three-and-out and tried to punt, but senior Blake Murphy muffed the snap and was tackled at the Indian 12.
After four plays, Holt scored from 1 yard out to give Belton a 7-0 lead late in the second period.
Fort Osage had 1:05 left on its last possession of the first half. On a fourth-and-15 from the Belton 29, Baker lobbed a pass to senior wide receiver Cahleel Smith. He leaped and bobbled the ball with a Belton cornerback defending. Smith, however, went to his knees and caught the ball to tie it at 7-7 with 6.1 seconds left.
“I saw the ball and I didn’t want the defender to catch it,” Smith said. “I just went for it and it popped out of my hands. I just reached out and the ball fell into my hands.”
Added Bult: “That was huge. It’s a completely different game if we don’t get that (touchdown).”
Fort Osage senior Von Young IV had a carry of 47 yards on the first play of the second half out of the wildcat formation. A Belton face-mask penalty put the Indians at the Pirate 8 before Baker ran it in untouched for a 14-7 lead.
On Fort Osage's next drive, Baker – who was 3 of 10 passing for 67 yards and a score and rushed nine times for 132 yards and another TD – scrambled for a 64-yard run to set up Young’s 3-yard plunge to increase the lead to 21-7.
The 14-point lead forced Belton to pass and mix in the spread formation on some plays. Belton's best drive of the second half made it to the Indian 2 early in the fourth period. But a false start penalty and a pair of incompletions from quarterback Andrew Clark resulted in a turnover on downs.
Young, a linebacker who had 75 yards rushing and two TDs on seven carries on offense, then got to run an entire possession out of the wildcat late in the fourth and iced it with a 15-yard score with 5:58 left.
“He’s by far, pound for pound, the strongest kid in our school,” Bult said of Young, who broke multiple tackles. “He sells out in the weight room. He’s a phenomenal athlete and he takes a beating.”
Added senior running back Brandon Gregory Jr.: “Von is a beast on both sides of the ball. I never worried about him on any side.”