Ryan Schartz has plenty of reasons to smile at this time of year, but the biggest grin comes when the Fort Osage High School activities director is asked about football head coach Brock Bult.
Bult was Schartz’s defensive coordinator back in 2015 when the Indians won their first and only football state championship.
He was by Schartz’s side for year after year of success. And when the most successful head coach in school history decided to take an administrative position so he could spend more time with his family, Bult was the logical pick as his successor.
That was three years ago, and now, the Indians are a win away from claiming the second state title in school history as they travel to the University of Missouri’s Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium in Columbia for a 7 p.m. Saturday Class 5 Show-Me Bowl title matchup against St. Louis Vianney (the game will be broadcast live on Real Country 1030 AM KCWJ with the pregame show beginning at 6 p.m.).
The 9-4 Indians topped Columbia Battle 46-30 last Saturday at home to earn the spot in the title game. Vianney (10-3) downed Carthage 36-21 in the other Class 5 semifinal.
The Indians have overcome multiple injuries and a 3-4 start, but are healthy and excited for their fourth trip to the championship game in 12 seasons. The Indians lost the state title games in 2009 and 2012 and won in 2015.
“Without a doubt, this has been Coach Bult and his staff’s best season because of all the injuries they have had to overcome,” said Schartz, who averaged 10 wins a season for more than a decade before stepping down three seasons ago. “Look, the guys lost four games and this was a season that began with high expectations – the wheels could have fallen off had it not been for Coach Bult and his staff.
“They maintained confidence in the team, and that made the players feel confident in the way they were playing. When a player was injured, they found a replacement and we’ve won six in a row and are a win away from a second state championship.”
Bult lost starting offensive lineman Valentino Ulberg and Elijah Campbell to season-ending injuries halfway through the season and the team lost as many as nine starters to a variety of injuries that just made the Indians more focused and determined.
“I’ve never been on a team that had so many people doubting us,” linebacker Von Young IV said. “What kept us together was the belief our coaches had in us, and the belief we had in ourselves. During all the bad times, Coach Bult believed in us. He made us believe in ourselves and we were able to turn things around. He and our coaches deserve the credit for that turnaround.”
In typical Bult fashion, he refuses to take any credit for the turnaround.
“I didn’t make a tackle or throw a pass, it was the players who turned this thing around, and I think that is one reason why this season has been so special,” het said. “We told the guys, no one cares about the injuries, just work hard and get it done out there. I’m so proud of the guys on this team.”
Defense has been the Indians’ trademark since Schartz and Bult have been calling the shots from the sidelines, but a 33-3 state quarterfinal win over Staley might be the most dominating defensive performance in the history of the program.
“Our defense was so good that day,” quarterback Ty Baker said, “all the guys on offense just stood on the sidelines watching our defense play. It was amazing. We fed off each other that day. They did something great and it made us want to do something great.”
Bult said after the game that the performance even caught him a bit off guard, and he is one of the most respected defensive minds in the state.
“That was a great day, a lot of fun to watch,” Bult said. “The last six games have been great because we’ve been getting healthier and healthier every game and you can see the guys’ confidence growing each game.”
That’s something that Schartz noticed, too.
“Everyone knows Brock’s my guy,” Schartz said. “When I was coach, I ran the offense and he was like the head coach of the defense. And now he’s doing the same great things with our defense.
“He’s smart, he’s insightful, yet he’s deliberate. The kids love playing for him and really respond to him and his staff. The confidence has been growing and just being around the team this week, I can see how hard they are working and how excited they are about Saturday.
“And I’m a little bit excited, too.”