Fort Osage was staring down a 19-point halftime deficit against Winnetonka on Friday night in a Missouri Class 5 district championship game at Fort Osage.
The Indians’ undefeated season was slipping away.
Whatever was said in the locker room at halftime worked. Fort Osage scored 29 unanswered points in the second half and escaped with a 36-26 emotional victory, improving the Indians’ record to 11-0.
The gut-wrenching victory left Fort Osage junior quarterback Skylar Thompson in tears as he described his team’s comeback.
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“I am happy, sir,” Thompson said through his tears. “Going into halftime, we knew we could do this. We had each other’s back every step of the way. I am so proud of my team for pulling through and getting a win.”
The game was closer than the final score. Fort Osage was clinging to a 29-26 lead with 1 minute, 50 seconds left. Winnetonka moved to the Fort Osage 8-yard line.
Then, Fort Osage senior linebacker Josh Tuimaseve picked up a fumble and rumbled 80 yards for a touchdown that put the game away.
“As I heard the cheers, it got to me,” Tuimaseve said. “To be honest, I felt God with me.”
It was Tuimaseve’s younger brother, Jonah, who made another huge play early in the fourth quarter when he picked off a pass. That led to a 4-yard touchdown run by Bailey Williamson that closed Fort Osage’s deficit to 26-21 with 11:05 left in the game.
“They won us the game. That is all I can say,” Thompson said of the Indians’ defense. “They gave up zero points in the second half. They led us to two touchdowns. I can’t say enough about them. I love those guys.”
Fort Osage took its first lead with 6:42 left on an 11-yard run by Williamson. A two-point conversion run by Williamson gave Fort Osage a 29-26 lead.
Williamson finished the game with 189 yards in 19 carries.
While it was important for Fort Osage’s offense to put points on the board in the second half, it was the defense that came together to prevent Winnetonka from any offensive output.
Winnetonka, though, will ponder what might have been if senior quarterback Julious Sabastiano didn’t get hurt in the second quarter and did not play in the second half.
When Sabastiano tossed a perfect pass to Chris Williams for a 67-yard touchdown on the second play of the game, Fort Osage knew it was in for a battle.
The Griffins seized momentum in the second quarter and scored 19 unanswered points for a 26-7 halftime lead.
Early in the game, Fort Osage unleashed its potent offense. On the Indians’ first offensive play, Williamson broke through the middle for a 46-yard run. Three plays later, the Indians were in the end zone on a 2-yard run by Thompson.
It was 7-7 with 10:08 left in the first quarter. Defense stepped up for both teams during the next 10 minutes.
Midway through the second quarter, Sabastiano limped off the field after a 32-yard run. He missed several snaps.
Sabastiano returned and tossed a 31-yard pass that set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Williams with 8:47 left in the second quarter. The extra point was blocked, but Winnetonka led 17-7.
Winnetonka finished its season with an 8-3 record.