Fort Osage struggles with turnovers in loss

Unbeaten Pirates snap losing streak against Indians that dated back to 2007

By Cody Thorn
Special to The Examiner

Belton used a bruising running attack to snap a lengthy losing streak against Fort Osage in a Suburban Middle Six game Friday night.

The Pirates rolled to a 34-7 victory behind Ayden Holt’s three-touchdown showing to beat the Indians for the first time since 2007, according to the Missouri State High School Activities Association’s schedule database.

Fort Osage had won the previous eight showdowns since 2010 and most of them handily.

The roles were flipped in this showdown as the Pirates improved to 4-0.

“We really worked on hard on becoming a better running team, because last year we were not,” said Belton coach Todd Vaughn, whose team got votes in the Class 5 poll this week in the initial release of the Missouri Media state poll. “We knew our defense was on the field too much. We have to be able to run the football. I’m really proud of how we ran the football.

“It feels great – it feels great to be 4-0. We struggled last year. We were so young and so injured. It was tough on our kids. We had a great offseason and I’m proud of our kids. We talked about not beating them since 2007. They are a great football program. One of the best in all of the Kansas City area. This is good for our kids.”

Belton ran the ball 55 out of its 60 plays and gained 230 yards on the ground – led by 89 yards from the 6-foot, 220-pound Holt.

Belton got the ball first and while they didn’t score on the opening drive, it made a statement on running the ball.

The Pirates ran 12 straight plays on the ground before penalties forced a second-and-32 situation and two incomplete passes followed. Six minutes went off the clock but three plays later, the Pirates had the ball back after a fumble by Fort Osage.

With an offense based on misdirection with quarterback Braden Gerke taking the snap and having two or three running backs near him, would often fake a handoff before giving the ball to another back in the constant misdirection.

On the third play of the next drive, Gerke’s only carry of the first half was for a 13-yard gain to the Fort 28-yard line. Five plays later, Holt had his first touchdown on a 2-yard run for a 6-0 lead.

The Indians (1-4, 0-2 Middle Six) went three-and-out following a fumbled kickoff that caused the possession to start on their own 4. Belton (1-0 Middle Six) capitalized on the short field and Holt scored from 1 yard out for a 13-0 lead 

“The defense couldn’t get off the field and the offense couldn’t stay on the field,” Fort Osage coach Brock Bult said. “Kind of exactly how it looked like the first half.”

After another Fort Osage punt, Holt capped a seven-play drive with a 9-yard score for a 20-0 advantage.

Fort Osage couldn’t convert a first down until the 2:32 mark of the second quarter as the Indians moved the ball to the Belton 20-yard line, But Josh Wood intercepted a Greg Menne pass at the 2-yard line to end the first half.

Fort Osage used some of the same momentum and marched down to score to open the third quarter.

Menne returned the kick to the 41-yard line. Menne’s 17-yard pass to Ben Nettleton set up Corey Olvera’s 3-yard score to break the shutout.

Fort Osage held and had a chance to pull even closer, but fumbled the ball away to Belton’s TJ Smith. Wood’s 2-yard touchdown run was the sixth play of the drive – all runs.

“That is what we talked about, such a young team, when things are going our way we can play with anyone,” Bult said. “Now we have to learn how to respond when things don’t go our way. That wasn’t the response.”

Wood’s 24-yard touchdown run with 3:20 left accounted for the final points.

Fort Osage had the ball three more times and turned the ball over on downs twice and fumbled the ball.

Belton’s defense has now allowed only 21 points in the four victories – a big improvement from last year's 0-10 record and the best start in at least a decade for the Pirates.