This never-say-die Fort Osage High School “band of brothers” – who have won six games in a row after a 3-4 start to the season – are a close-knit family that feeds off the success of all three phases of the game.
But a group of determined secondary performers – cornerbacks Cahleel Smith and Gavyn Monday and safeties Blake Murphy and Ethan Parton – call themselves “The Tribe,” because they are a special family within the Fort Osage Indians team.
“When the defense make a big play, we want to reward them,” quarterback Ty Baker said as Fort Osage prepares for a 7 p.m. Saturday Class 5 state championship game against St. Louis Vianney at the University of Missouri’s Faurot Field. “But I wouldn’t want to play against our defense – no way! They’ve taken their game to a new level.”
That level includes a memorable 33-3 victory over the defending Class 5 state champs Staley, who put an end to the Indians 2017 season.
Fort followed that win with a 46-30 victory over Columbia Battle, and now, they are a win away from the second state championship in school history.
And to make that happen, they have to stop perhaps the best running back in the state, Notre Dame commit Kyren Williams, who is equally punishing catching or running with the football.
“We call ourselves ‘The Tribe’ within the Indians family,” said Smith, a senior cornerback who has three postseason picks and six for the season. “This entire team is a family, the closest family I have ever been a part of, but this secondary group is so close.
“And we know what we have to do to win Saturday. When we started 3-4, a lot of people doubted us. But Coach (Brock) Bult and our coaches never doubted us, and we never doubted ourselves.
“I don’t think a lot of people thought we would beat Staley, but we did. We ended their season like they ended our season last year. And now, we have to find a way to stop the (Vianney) running back everyone is talking about.
“I know he’s (Williams) good, because we’ve watched a lot of film on him, but we’re a group that believes in each other and with our coaches leading the way, I think we can find a way to have success against their offense.”
Murphy, who leads the Indians in tackles with 127 and has two interceptions, agrees with his teammate.
“We have to be focused on the run, more than the pass – although they can pass the ball really well, too,” Murphy said. “Cahleel is right, though, we are a band of brothers – the guys in the secondary and everyone on this team.
“We have our offense, our defense and our special teams units, but we are all brothers on and off the football field.”
Parton and Monday have two interceptions each, and are eager to play in a state title game.
“We have a special connection,” Monday said, referring to the secondary brothers and all members of the defense. “We just have this spirit that is so special. Cahleel and Blake, who is a tackle machine, played a lot more than Ethan and I did last year, and it’s so much fun to be out there playing at this time of year.
“We’re a win away from a state championship. We’re playing a great team in Vianney and a great running back. How can you not be excited with all that happening?”
Parton agrees, adding, “We have been so focused all week. Coach Bult said to not pay attention to the noise that surrounds the team. We’ve had to practice indoors, and we practiced hard and got a lot done.
“Everyone wants to talk about the game and that’s a lot of fun during the day, but once practice starts, it’s all focus and attention to detail and doing the things that have made us all so successful the last six games.”