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First-time opponents Indians, Eagles have many connections

By Bill Althaus
Grain Valley quarterback Cole Keller finds open space on a keeper in last Friday's game against Kearney. Keller's father John played at Grain Valley with Fort Osage coach Brock Bult. The Eagles meet Bult's Indians Friday/

An exciting new high school football rivalry could begin Friday night in Eastern Jackson County. Fort Osage plays host to Grain Valley – two teams with a lot more in common than most fans might realize.

Fort Osage head coach Brock Bult was a two-time all-state linebacker for Grain Valley in 1995 and 1996 and the Eagles quarterback was John Keller.

Bult and his young 1-4 Indians must try to find a way to stop undefeated and fourth-ranked Grain Valley and quarterback Cole Keller, John’s son, in a Suburban Middle Six battle.

And the comparisons don’t stop there.

Grain Valley activities director Brandon Hart started his teaching and coaching career at Fort Osage 23 years ago. He was a teacher and assistant football coach for three years and was the Indians activities director for 14 years, before leaving to take over as activities director at Grain Valley.

His son Keegan was a ball boy for the Indians during the Skylar Thompson state championship glory days and is now a starting defensive back for the 5-0 Eagles and is among the team leaders in tackles.

“This has all the makings of a great rivalry, now that we’re both in the same conference,” Bult said. “You could see Grain Valley start to grow before I left. I think there were 89 graduates in my senior class and now there are several hundred.

“And I think that is so cool. We’re looking at a lot of film this week because Coach (David) Allie has that offense and defense playing so well. We’re so young, it’s going to be another challenge for our guys, but we’re excited about Grain Valley coming to our place for what should be the first of many exciting games.”

For Hart, it will be his first time on the Fort Osage sidelines since Thompson, now Kansas State’s starter, led the Indians to their first state championship in 2015.

“I’ve been at Grain Valley for five years, and the growth we’ve experienced is really unbelievable,” Hart said. “I’m looking forward to going to Fort Osage Friday and seeing all the additions to their stadium and the turf.

“I’ve been back, and I’ve seen it from a distance, but that will be my first time on the sidelines in a long time. I was an Indian for a long time and I’m looking forward to seeing all my friends and everyone I worked with.

“It was tough leaving Fort Osage because we were like a big family out there, but when I got to Grain Valley, I found out that we’re a big family here, too.”

Grain Valley is ranked No. 4 in the state in its first season in Class 5.

When asked about watching his son play the Indians, Hart chuckled.

“The last time he was on the field at Fort Osage he was the ball boy,” Hart said, grinning. “Now, he’s going to be playing. I’m an old coach, I’m a dad, you know I can’t wait to watch him and all our guys play.

“I agree with Brock, I think this could be the start of a really great rivalry.”