Defense is still a point of pride for the Fort Osage football team, and still very potent.

Defense is still a point of pride for the Fort Osage football team, and still very potent.

The defending Class 5 state runner-up smothered Lee’s Summit North’s offense for a 19-7 season-opening victory Friday night.

With a number of new faces on offense, the defense helped the newcomers relax in the first half by not allowing a Broncos first down. North was held to just 26 yards in the first half.

“It was just a total team effort tonight,” Fort Osage coach Ryan Schartz said. “In the first half our defense played great. They three-and-outted them several times.”

Defense even set up the Indians’ first touchdown of the game.

Midway through the third quarter, the Broncos were on the verge of getting something going on offense.  Then senior quarterback Pete Haggard threw a pass just out of his receiver’s reach and right into the arms of Fort Osage defensive back Spencer Gearhart. Gearhart returned the interception 19 yards to North’s 11-yard line. An 8-yard pass from Steven McBee to fullback Ian Bailey set up a 3-yard touchdown run by McBee. After failing on the two-point conversion, the Indians took a 12-0 lead thanks to a pair of field goals by Billy Vigil in the first half.

Gearhart said he felt like it was a game-changing play for the Indians and his coach agreed.

“That was a big momentum play for us,” Schartz said.

Gearhart said the defense expects to carry the load for a while with a young offense.

“Our secondary is going to be the strength of our team for a while until we get everything back in sync,” Gearhart said. “It helps a lot when you have a noseguard like Tony (Tanumai) a D-end like Jesse Peery and LouAllen Te’o that puts pressure on the quarterback all day.”

The Broncos stole a little bit of momentum back with a four-play, 44-yard touchdown drive late in the third quarter. The quick strike was capped with an 18-yard touchdown pass from Haggard to T.J. Semke. The PAT by Andrew Baggett put the Broncos back in striking distance.

Schartz said that’s when his players really shined.

“I was proud of our kids,” he said. “When they came back and scored, we didn’t break.”

Fort Osage got its cushion back in the fourth quarter on a 4-yard touchdown run by Jaleel Gordon. Gordon’s run was part of a 73-yard drive – the longest of the game for the Indians.

While the Indians didn’t amass a bunch of yardage or points, Schartz said the offense got the job done by moving the chains and burning clock.

“Other than the penalties, I thought we were just pretty average,” Schartz said of his offense. “I think there’s a lot of work to do. I think we could be better than what we were tonight.

“We had a lot of new faces tonight. We graduated all of our skill positions and had basically three linemen back. To get the jitters out and get the win for these young kids, we’re going to try and build on that a little bit.”

One of those new faces was McBee who led the Indians in rushing with 88 yards on 21 carries.

“He’s probably a running back playing quarterback is what he is,” Schartz said. “But he can throw the ball a little bit too.”

McBee was 5 of 13 for 36 yards. McBee showed tremendous speed in the open field, but Schartz likes to use caution with him.

“I don’t like to run him that much because he’s just a sophomore,” Schartz said. “He’s a skinny little toothpick out there, and I don’t want to get him hurt. He ran the ball hard tonight.”

McBee walked away unscathed but the Indians’ victory was marred with penalties. They committed 12 penalties for a loss of 94 yards.

“The penalties ... we’ve got to get that cleaned up fast,” Schartz said. “I don’t know how many yards we lost tonight but it was a bunch.”

It wasn’t quite as much as Lee’s Summit North’s 14 penalties for 100 yards.