Shortage of linemen dooms Fort Osage in loss to NKC

Bill Althaus
The Examiner

Fort Osage junior quarterback Greg Menne was mauled Friday night at North Kansas City High School. 

The Hornets used a swarming defense to claim 13 sacks and hold the Indians to just 138 yards of total offense. 

Yet, as he walked off the field, after spending more time on his back than in the pocket, he praised his teammates, especially the reserve offensive linemen who were pushed into duty when their teammates missed the game because of COVID-19 protocols. 

"Honestly, I couldn't be any prouder of my teammates because we got beat by a better team tonight, but we never gave up," said Menne, who was 8-of-13 for 100 yards and one touchdown. "Tonight was tougher on me mentally than physically, because it's football, and you're going to get hit. 

"We just kept trying to find a way to move the ball, and we couldn't. That was frustrating, but we never quit." 

In fact, Menne was sacked on the last play of the game, as he tried to make something happen near his own goal line. 

"This loss will not define our team," Indians coach Brock Bult said after his team lost its first game of the season. "What will define our team is how we come back to practice on Monday and work to make sure this doesn't happen again." 

When asked about the toughness of his young quarterback, he said, "He's a gamer – a tough kid. It was a long night for him, but he kept trying to make something happen." 

A freshman and sophomore played on the offensive line, and several other starters were out because of COVID-19, according to Principal Scott Moore, who watched the game from the sidelines. 

"We're missing some guys, that's football," Bult said. "I'm never going to make an excuse for the way we played. We had some young guys in there and they found out that they have to play better for us to be successful – and it all starts Monday." 

Larenzo Fenner, one of the top wide receivers in the state who caught two touchdowns last week and had two TD receptions and a punt return for a score called back because of penalties, had just five catches in the game, and two were short shovel passes from Menne. 

"We wanted to get Fenner the ball," Menne said. "We just didn't have time. But Coach (Simo) Atagi (offensive coordinator) and Coach Ammo (Rick Ammons, the offensive line coach) will get things worked out this week. It's still early in the season and we can use this as a wakeup call. We started off 2-0 and had two big offensive games, and now, we have to get back to work." 

North Kansas City led 6-0 after one period when J.J. Johnson hit Chase Porter on a 41-yard touchdown strike at 4:59. The extra point was wide. 

Kail Williams then hit a 22-yard field goal in the second period to make it 9-0 before Xander Shepherd hit a 35-yard field goal at 5:19 to cut the deficit to 9-3. 

Fort Osage's Ryan Thorpe then recovered a fumble on the Hornets’ 37 and four plays later Menne hit Aaron Henson for a 15-yard score. Shepherd's extra point made it 10-9. 

Then came what Bult called "the turning point of the game." 

Fort Osage defensive back Roman Tillmon stepped in front of a North Kansas City receiver and nearly picked off a pass near the sidelines with nothing but open field in front of him. 

"It happened right before the half, and if we score on that interception, they don't score their second touchdown and who knows," Bult said. "The one thing we do know is that we have to play better." 

Two plays after the near interception, Johnson hit Chase Porter for a 6-yard score. The Indians (2-1) blocked the extra point and it was 15-10 at halftime. 

North Kansas City put the game away with a 13-point third quarter when Jermaine House scored on a 4-yard run and Johnson hit Porter for a 92-yard touchdown on a back-breaking third-and-30 play from his own 8-yard line. 

Shepherd hit a 37-yard field goal for the Indians' lone second half points. 

Johnson finished the night 11 of 24 for 259 yards. 

Defensive lineman Domonique Orange had four sacks and the 13 sacks totaled a minus-58 yards. 

The Indians are supposed to play Raytown at home next Friday, but the Blue Jays are in quarantine after opting out of Friday’s scheduled game against William Chrisman. 

"There is the chance we might play Raytown on Saturday," Moore said. "Fans will just have to wait a while to find out when we play and if we are able to play the Blue Jays because of COVID protocol." 

After the tough loss, Bult was greeted on the field by his 10-year-old son Brodie and 7-year-old William, who had been passing a football while Dad visited with school officials. 

"This makes a tough loss a bit easier," Bult said, as William gave him a hug. "This is life. Football is a game, and it's important, but this is what's most important."