Fort Osage defense wears down Grain Valley to earn Class 5 state semifinal berth

Bill Althaus
The Examiner

Early in the first period of a Class 5 state quarterfinal matchup between visiting Fort Osage and Grain Valley, Eagles quarterback Caleb Larson connected with Anthony Greco for a 34-yard pass play that placed the ball on the Indians' 1-yard line. 

All that play did was inspire the Indians, who kept Grain Valley out of the end zone on four consecutive running plays to keep it scoreless. 

"That was a woulda, coulda, shoulda play, and it showed just how good their defense is," Eagles coach David Allie said after the Indians scored five touchdowns in the second half to claim a 35-0 victory. "If we score there, who knows. All I know is that they just wore us down in the second half. They've got a great team."

Fort Osage quarterback Greg Menne eludes Grain Valley defenders Brody Baker (15) and Sawyer Farris (55) in Friday's Class 5 state quarterfinal. Menne led the Indians on four scoring drives in the second half to break a scoreless halftime tie and take a 35-0 victory.

The 11-1 Indians now travel to Wentzville Holt for a Class 5 state semifinal game at 6 p.m. next Friday. The winner travels to Columbia at 7 p.m. Dec. 3 for the state championship game. 

Not only did the Fort Osage defense make the goal-line stand, it survived three turnovers by the offense to keep it scoreless at halftime. 

The Indians’ offense, though, came out on fire in the third quarter and marched methodically down the field on the first possession. Javen Hall capped the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run to make it 7-0 with 6:34 left. 

On their next possession, Suburban Middle Six Defensive Player of the Year David Jacquez came in as part of the Indians’ jumbo offensive package and scored on a 1-yard touchdown run at 1:03. 

Fort Osage linebacker David Jacquez (33) sacks Grain Valley quarterback Caleb Larson (8) for a 9-yard loss as Connor Heitman (64) looks in their Class 5 state quarterfinal game Friday. The Fort Osage defense made an early goal-line stand, survived three turnovers and forced two turnovers itself to lead the Indians to a 35-0 win.

And with 12 seconds left in the third, Daniel Tapusoa picked up a fumble and returned it for a 21-yard touchdown and a 21-0 lead.

"A 21-0 lead is a lot bigger than a 14-point lead," Tapusoa said, as Jacquez nodded in agreement. "Hawk (Jacquez) was the man tonight. He scores a touchdown on offense, and on the next offensive series (for Grain Valley) he gets a sack (for a 9-yard loss). 

"From the first day of practice, he has been our leader and he was our leader tonight. This was a great win! A must win!" 

Jacquez went from teammate to teammate, greeting each with a hug or a high-five. 

"We're a game away from going to state after being down one or two touchdowns in our last two games," Jacquez said. "Tonight, at the half, it was 0-0, so we were ready to come out on fire in the third period, and that's what we did.

“Greg (Menne) is a stud at quarterback. He ran the offense to perfection, and we just fed off each other. We'd stop them, and Greg would come out and get us a score. It was the way we've done it all season. This was a great team win!" 

Fort Osage linebacker Daniel Tapusoa (10) returns a Grain Valley fumble for a 21-yard touchdown in their Class 5 state quarterfinal game Friday. The Fort Osage defense scored and shut out the host Eagles in a 35-0 win.

Like he has done every game this season, Menne directed the attention toward his line and defensive teammates. 

"Our line was amazing tonight," Menne, who had 51 yards rushing and was 9 of 14 passing for 124 yards, said after the Indians carried the ball 53 times for 276 yards. "Our guys are so big and strong and we just wore them down. 

"They're a great team, and they worked so hard all night. But we were just a little bit bigger and stronger and had another great second half like we've had all season." 

Corey Olvera scored on a 3-yard yard run in the fourth quarter and freshman Ryver Peppers turned on the mercy rule clock with a 47-yard touchdown run at 3:55. 

"Peppers is going to be incredible. Keep your eye on him, he's going to be a big time D-I running back," Jacquez said of the freshman. "Every time he touches the ball, he does something big." 

Grain Valley defensive back Tristin Pouncil (2) knocks the ball from the grasp of Fort Osage receiver Larenzo Fenner in the first half of Friday's Class 5 state quarterfinal game. Despite forcing three first-half turnovers, Grain Valley couldn't capitalize on any of them and Fort Osage pulled away in the second half for a 35-0 win.

As Indians coach Brock Bult, a graduate of Grain Valley and a member of the Eagles Hall of Fame, walked into the locker room, he asked, "Where's my music?" 

The usually low-key head coach made sure his team did its celebrating away from the Eagles and their fans after he dodged a water cooler dump by his players on the field. 

"We'll we've seen this all year," Bult said. "It takes a half for our offense to wear a team down, and we have a big second half and our defense plays like they did tonight. What a great group of players! 

"How about that early (defensive) stand on the 1-yard line? That's our defense. Those guys want it so much, and they work so hard and they stopped a very good team from scoring with four opportunities from the 1.  

"That may have surprised some people, but it didn't surprise me." 

Keagan Hart had a solid game for the 8-4 Eagles with five receptions for 65 yards and an interception and a fumble recovery in the first half. 

"They just wore us down – they're big and strong and talented, on both offense and defense," Hart said. "We were able to stay with them for a half, but they had too much for us in the second half." 

Larson finished the game completing 10 of 27 passes for 120 yards. He was also the Eagles’ leading rusher with 14 carries for 55 yards. 

Hall finished with 21 carries for 84 yards and the touchdown. Larenzo Fenner had 89 yards receiving on six catches. 

The Indians held the Eagles to just 71 yards rushing on 21 carries.