Late miscues doom Fort Osage in overtime loss to Kearney

By Cody Thorn
Special to The Examiner
Fort Osage running back Corey Olvera (21) stiff-arms a Kearney defender in Friday's season opener at Kearney. The Indians fell to the Bulldogs 27-21 in overtime.

KEARNEY, Mo. – A series of bad plays turned a possible win into a heartbreaking loss for Fort Osage in the season opener on Friday at Kearney.

But Indians coach Brock Bult remained optimistic.

“At least we got to open the season and play some football,” Fort Osage coach Brock Bult said of the 27-21 overtime defeat, donning a red gaiter over his face. “I was very proud of our kids. We had a lot of kids that didn’t have enough practices in and we had limited numbers. We had kids playing both ways. We sold out … we just made too many mistakes at the end.”

The rally by Kearney upstaged a big day for Sophomore quarterback Greg Menne and sophomore receiver Larenzo Fenner. Fenner scored on a pair of 90-yard-plus plays and Menne completed 14 of 21 passes for 240 yards. Of the 14 completions, six different receivers had at least one catch.

The Indians were inside the Bulldogs’ red zone with less than two minutes left but a turnover led to overtime and Kearney prevailed 27-21 after Dawson Meinert’s 2-yard quarterback keeper capped a comeback for the host – for a game that was originally supposed to be played in Independence.

The contest was moved to allow additional fans of the Indians to watch the game, and fans on both sides were asked to social distance during the event held at The Kearney Clinic/Liberty Hospital Field.

The kickoff, though, brought some normalcy back and marked the first sporting event that counted for either team since March.The fourth quarter started with Fort Osage leading 14-7, but on the first play of the quarter, Meinert hit Trenton Vaughan for a 6-yard touchdown. Meinert connected with Carson Frakes on the two-point conversion to tie it with 11:52 to play.

Fenner returned the kickoff 35 yards and Fort Osage started at its own 45. Menne threw a pair of first-down passes to Will Snodgrass (16 yards) and Javen Hall (9) to move to the Kearney 10-yard line. Facing a second-and-goal from the 7, Menne called his own number and scored. Xander Shepherd – whose name wasn’t on the roster – booted the extra point to make it 21-14.

Meinert – who shared Kearney quarterback duties with Ian Acosta – ran for a 3-yard score with 2:51 left and the game was knotted up again.

Fort Osage looked to be in a good spot to win it thanks to a 45-yard kickoff return by Jaedean Penamon. Starting at the Kearney 45, Menne hit Fenner for a 15-yard gain. That was the final yards for the sophomore receiver, who gained 155 yards on five catches.

A pair of 8-yard runs, one by Corey Olvera and another by Menne, moved the Indians to the Kearney 14-yard line with 52 seconds left. Then, a bad snap sailed over Menne’s head and he raced back for it. Running stride by stride was Kearney’s Braxton Breedlove, who recovered it at the 40.

“We had it set up to run a couple more plays and if we couldn’t score, kick a field goal with no time left,” Bult said. “We had a bad snap. We had missed blocks. We had I don’t know how many offsides. These are things we can clean up. We have new guys. We have young guys. We made mistakes, but learning mistakes.”

A 26-yard loss on the play essentially ended regulation. The teams traded interceptions, one with two seconds left by the Indians’ Linus Velder and another by Frakes at the buzzer.

Fort Osage had the ball first in overtime but the first two plays were sacks of Menne by Sam Lowman and then Vaughan. Facing a third-and-23, two incomplete passes ended the drive.

Prior to that point, Menne hadn’t been sacked.

Kearney converted two first downs, including a sliding catch by Frakes on the Indians’ sidelines on third down. Four straight runs followed – though an offsides by Fort Osage happened on the penultimate play of the contest – that ended with Meinert's final touchdown. 

Fort Osage fullback Zach Domanski breaks free for a long run in Friday's season opener at Kearney. Fort Osage went on to lose 27-21 in overtime.

Fort Osage got the ball first and ran nearly 7 minutes off the clock, but turned the ball over on downs at the Kearney 5-yard line. Scoreless after the opening quarter, Fort Osage’s first turnover turned into points for Kearney in the second quarter.

A fumble on an exchange between quarterback and running back fell into the arms of Kearney’s Kade Dunlap. Five plays later, Luke Noland scored on a 5-yard run for the Bulldogs.

The two-point conversion failed, but Fenner quickly gave the Indians the lead. He fielded the ball near the Indians sideline, cut inside and then back outside and was gone for a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

That was one of two 90-plus yard scores for the sophomore.

Fort Osage took a 7-6 lead into the break, but Kearney – who deferred to open the game – got the ball. The Bulldogs attempted a field goal attempt on fourth down from the Fort Osage 1-yard line, but a bad snap led to an errant attempt to salvage the play and that came up empty.

A turnover for the Indians led to the team starting at the 1-yard line. On the first two plays, Menne targeted Fenner, but both passes were incomplete. An offside by Kearney on third down gave the Indians some breathing room.

“We missed the first two but he was beating the corner,” Bult said of Fenner. “So we ran it again.”

The third time was the charm, as Menne’s pass hit Fenner around the 35-yard line and then he outran the Kearney defenders. The 94-yard touchdown made it 13-7 at the time.

Fort Osage sophomore Larenzo Fenner (1) eludes Kearney defenders on the way to scoring a touchdown on a long pass play in Friday's season opener at Kearney. Fort Osage fell 27-21 in overtime.

Now, both teams' focus shifts to Week 2 and two tough matchups. Kearney hosts Class 4 runner-up Platte County, while Fort Osage plays at Staley.

That’s the first matchup for the former divisional foes since the Indians won 33-3 and advanced the state semifinals – and later the Class 5 finals – in 2018.