Fort Osage senior running back Ezra Vaoifi scored two touchdowns in the first half against Winnetonka. His tenacious running was one reason why the Indians came away with an impressive 42-7 victory Monday evening in the Missouri Class 5, District 7 championship game.
By DAVID BOYCE
Special to The Star
“They play for each other,” Fort Osage coach Ryan Schartz said.
The most impressive play by Vaoifi had nothing to do with scoring and emphasized why Fort Osage remained undefeated and headed to Saturday’s Class 5 quarterfinals with an 11-0 record.
The Indians had treated their home crowd to a comfortable 21-0 lead midway through the second quarter and were driving for another touchdown when Winnetonka senior linebacker Jack Veraguth stripped the ball near Winnetonka’s 25. He raced downfield and appeared headed for the end zone.
Vaoifi was at least 15 yards behind Varaguth, but he chased down Varaguth and tackled him at the 14.
“I saw something going on the other side. I was on the back side,” Vaoifi said. “When I saw the dude sprinting down the sideline, something wasn’t right. I chased after him. I didn’t want him to score.
“I didn’t want it to spark momentum for them. I gave it all I had and turned the burners on, or at least I tried to. Luckily, I was able to stop him.”
Fort Osage’s defense took over and forced a fumble on the next play.
“Ezra wanted to keep that zero on the scoreboard,” Schartz said. “That is probably as fast as I’ve seen him run.”
The Indians used a combination of Vaoifi’s running and the passing of sophomore quarterback Skylar Thompson to build their lead.
The first touchdown was a 24-yard run by Vaoifi with 1:25 left in the first quarter. The Indians extended their lead on a 22-yard pass from Thompson to Jesse McBee with 9:32 left in the second quarter.
The most impressive touchdown in the first half came on a screen pass from Thompson to Vaoifi, who made a nifty cut for a 25-yard play.
It was the senior offensive line that opened the holes and gave Thompson plenty of time to throw.
Even with the lead, the Indians went for more because they wanted to take advantage of the wind at their backs. With 2 minutes remaining before halftime, Fort Osage used all three timeouts to get the ball back.
After a short punt into the wind, Fort Osage got the ball at Winnetonka’s 31 with 1:30 left in the second quarter. The Indians moved quickly and scored with 3 seconds left on a 1-yard run by Thompson.
The Indians continued their dominant play at the start of the third quarter, forcing a fumble on the kickoff. Two minutes later, they were in the end zone again on a 1-yard run by Vaoifi, making it 35-0 with 9:32 left in the third quarter.
Kearney 28, Staley 7
After taking a 7-point lead into the half, Kearney was able to capitalize on a pair of second-half turnovers and pull away for a 28-7 victory against Staley on Monday night for the regional championship.
“That was huge to get us some breathing room,” Kearney coach Greg Jones said of the two turnovers. “The defense created a lot of turnovers tonight and gave us a short field. In the second half, we were able to capitalize on that.”
Those were two of the five turnovers — two interceptions and three fumbles — forced by the Kearney defense. The Bulldogs, who beat Staley 42-0 a month ago, only turned it over twice.
In the third quarter, Kale Harmon intercepted Staley quarterback Jordan Robben at the 11-yard line. It took Kearney just five plays, including a 36-yard rush by Brock Broughton, to take it to the Staley 2-yard line, setting up a touchdown run by Broughton.
Staley fumbled on the next possession and Alex Ivy picked it up and tossed it to Broughton, who ran it in from the 24 for his third touchdown of the night. Broughton, who is committed to play next season at Western Illinois, finished with 148 yards in 37 carries for the Bulldogs.
“We came out more physical,” Broughton said of the second half. “The line said they were going to out-physical them, and I always tell them if they give me a seam, I will go.”
Kearney took an early lead in the first quarter with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Austin Hink to Johnny Laughlin. Staley’s TJ Molway returned the kick for 58 yards to the Kearney 28, which set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Robben to tie the score.
However, Staley fumbled on the next possession and Ivy recovered at the 27-yard line. Seven plays later, Kearney took back the lead when Broughton scored on a 3-yard run.
With the victory, Kearney advanced to face undefeated Fort Osage, who defeated Winnetonka 42-7, for a spot in the quarterfinals next Saturday.
Lee’s Summit West 47, Willard 8
Not much has changed for the Lee's Summit West football team over the last year.
Not yet anyway.
The Titans easily moved past visiting Willard 47-8 on Monday and won their 10th consecutive district championship. For the second straight year, they will advance to the Missouri Class 5 quarterfinals with back-to-back blowouts.
And now is when the Titans will gladly welcome a little change.
Viewed as the favorite in Class 5 last year, Lee's Summit West had its season come to a surprising end in a quarterfinal loss to Ozark — a game it used as motivation for the ensuing 12 months.
It's working, for now.
Lee's Summit West, 11-1, jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter Monday and expanded the margin to 28-8 by halftime.
Willard, 8-3, showed a one-dimensional offense — the Tigers attempted only four passes in the first half while ZaKorey Barr carried it 18 times.
Lee's Summit West, meanwhile, was far from one-dimensional. Four different players accounted for first-half scores — Monte Harrison, Brenner Clemons, Andrew Palmer and Ryan Williams — and quarterback Thomas Ganaden threw for 132 yards without an incompletion in the first two quarters.
Palmer, who ran for 105 yards, and Clemons duplicated their scores in the second half.
| Kathleen Gier, email@example.com | Sam McDowell, firstname.lastname@example.org