In a span of about three seconds, Osage“>Fort Osage senior Mamu Tauiautusa’s mind raced back three years.
Specifically, he remembered his freshman season of football with the Indians. While the varsity squad finished as the state runners-up in 2009, the freshman team won just one game — a one-score victory in the final week of the season. Every other week, at least as Tauiautusa remembers it, was a blowout.
My, how far they’ve come.
The same group will play for a Class 5 state title next week following a 16-7 home victory against Ozark in front of a standing-room-only crowd Friday night. The Indians will see unbeaten Kirkwood in the Class 5 championship at 7:30 p.m. next Friday at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.
“It’s so crazy how far we’ve come together,” said Tauiautusa, the team’s leading tackler. “I can’t tell you how bad we wanted to get better.”
The Indians, 12-1, played like a group that’s been through a few battles.
In a game featuring two teams that pride themselves on physical play, Fort Osage was left standing after a dominate second half in which it erased Ozark’s one-point halftime edge. Ozark, 11-2, held senior quarterback Steven McBee to zero rushing yards on nine carries in the first half and sacked him three times. A locker-room speech centered around tougher play at the line of scrimmage manifested itself after the break, and McBee gained 106 yards on 15 second-half totes in a hurry-up offense designed to counter’s Ozark slow-paced attack.
Tailback Ezra Vaoifi had the game’s only second-half score, a 2-yard run to give the Indians a 13-7 lead.
“When we got the ball on offense, our plan was to speed it up and go as fast as we could possibly go,” Fort Osage coach Ryan Schartz said. “We knew they had seven or eight that guys that were two-way players that also played special teams.”
Of course, that would only come into play if Fort Osage managed to survive an early charge from an energized Ozark squad coming off an upset of top-ranked Lee’s Summit. And the Indians did — though just barely.
Using its deceptive single-wing offense that featured four different quarterbacks, Ozark drove 50 yards on 10 plays in the opening quarter, and it capped the time-consuming drive with a three-yard score from Cody Lindsay.
Looking for more, Ozark crossed midfield on its next drive before the typically stout Fort Osage defense emerged.
The Indians, meanwhile, turned to their passing game. McBee fired eight consecutive passes — the last one a 16-yard corner route to Willie Penamon, who shrugged off a holding call in the back of the end zone to pull the Indians within one. After a 2-for-5 start, McBee connected on six of the eight attempts in the scoring drive. Penamon finished with five catches for 61 yards and the score. “I think I was getting happy feet early, so I was missing my throws just a hair,” McBee said. “I was able to correct it, and we executed and got some drives going.” Their next drive will come in St. Louis.
“We deserve to be there, Tauiautusa said. “We’re going to play like it.”