Xander Shepherd's kick sends Fort Osage into district title game

Bill Althaus
The Examiner

When it came to winning its Class 5 District 8 semifinal game Friday night against visiting Staley, X marked the spot for the Fort Osage Indians. 

With no time showing on the clock, holder Greg Menne took a perfect snap from David Jacquez and Xander Shepherd put the ball through the uprights for a game-winning 28-yard field goal as the Indians overcame a 14-0 halftime deficit to edge the Falcons 17-14. 

"We all knew Xander was going to get the field goal," said Menne, whose 1-yard touchdown plunge tied it 14-all with 8:10 left in the fourth quarter. "We practice moments like this 24/7 and they paid off tonight." 

Fort Osage kicker Xander Shepherd (98) misses on a field goal try in the first half of Friday's Class 5 District 8 semifinal against Staley. Shepherd later atoned for the miss, kicking the game-winning field goal as time expired to lift the Indians to a 17-14 victory.

Jacquez, a premier linebacker who was inserted into the backfield on the Indians’ "Jumbo Package," had a late 9-yard carry on a fourth-and-one play from the 31-yard line to set up the field goal. 

"We practice the snap and hold 24/7 – everything has to be perfect to kick that field goal, and tonight everything was perfect," Jacquez said.  

The winning field goal was even more dramatic because Shepherd had missed a 33-yard attempt, but was given a second chance when a flag was thrown for running into the kicker.

Fort Osage's Larenzo Fenner, center, finds a hole for a long punt return during Friday's Class 5 District 8 semifinal against Staley. Fort Osage went on to claim a 17-14 win.

"I would have made the first field goal, but one of their guys ran into me," Shepherd said. "I was looking at the official thinking, 'Where's the flag? Where's the flag?'" 

So was coach Brock Bult, who said, grinning, "I might have gotten into a little bit of trouble if they hadn't thrown that flag. They did – it was pretty obvious. And we knew Xander was going to come through when he got the second chance." 

As Shepherd was visiting with teammates and family members after the game, old-school offensive line coach Rick Ammons walked by and quipped, "I still hate soccer players," then he gave Shepherd a big hug. 

Welcome to the Fort Osage football family. 

Shepherd is one of the top soccer players for the Indians and led his team in scoring this season. 

"This is all surreal," Shepherd said. "I've had some big soccer games, but this is the first time I've ever had the opportunity to kick a winning field goal in a football game, and I can't even tell you how great it feels. But there were so many guys on the team who made that field goal possible.

Fort Osage's Aaron Henson (42) celebrates with teammate Gavin Gallman after making a reception in Friday's Class 5 District 8 semifinal against Staley. The Indians went on to a 17-14 victory.

"Our defense was crazy good the second half and our offense turned things around in the second half." 

And the man in the middle of the big offensive comeback was Larenzo Fenner, who caught a short pass from Menne, eluded two tacklers behind the line of scrimmage and snaked his way into the end zone for a 15-yard score that cut the deficit to 14-7 with 2:12 left in the third period. 

"I just do my thing out there," Fenner said. "We all played much better in the second half. We weren't happy at halftime – no one was happy – because we weren't playing Fort Osage football. But we played Fort Osage football the second half, and that's why we won." 

The final drive was one for the history books. On Staley’s final punt, Fenner made a running catch, surrounded by three Staley would-be tacklers, and somehow returned the ball 24 yards to the Staley 36 with 42 seconds left.

Fort Osage linebacker David Jacquez wraps up Staley receiver Emonta Hicks (10) in Friday's Class 5 District 8 semifinal Friday. Fort Osage claimed a 17-14 win.

“I did what I had to do,” Fenner said. “I knew I could catch that punt on the run and make some yardage.” 

So did Bult. Well, sort of. 

"I saw him catch the ball and thought, 'What is he doing? No, wait a minute, that's Larenzo! Nice job!" Bult said after his team improved to 9-1 and set up a district title game at 7 p.m. next Friday at home against Platte County. 

The Indians marched to the 31-yard line when Jacquez took six tacklers with him on a 9-yard carry to keep the drive alive. 

"You can do that when you squat 500 pounds," Bult said. 

The Indians drove to the 25 when time was running out, and Shepherd came out for a 32-yard attempt. He was run into by a Staley defender, and the rest is history. 

"This is what is so great about this team," said Jacquez, who blocked an extra point early in the game and had enough big tackles to fill a highlight reel. "We didn't play that well the first half. Our coaches got after us at halftime and we came out and played Fort Osage football!"

Fort Osage running back Javen Hall, right, finds room to run outside in Friday's Class 5 District 8 semifinal against Staley. Hall and the Indians went on to a 17-14 win.

Bult was quick to add, "Yeah, at the half I told them I wasn't ready to collect their equipment so they better go out and win that game." 

Menne finished the game completing 10 of 22 passes with the one touchdown and no interceptions. Staley's Cole Robertson was 16 of 31 for 192 yards.  

Staley scored on a 2-yard run by Robertson and a 30-yard trick pass from wide out John Randle IV to Brett Fleming. Robertson and Fleming then hooked up on a 2-point pass play to account for the 14-0 halftime score.