The Osage defense — who battled awful field position all night — managed to keep the game within striking distance until late in the second half. The defensive special teams unit also made a number of impact plays that kept multiple points off the board.
Four interceptions, two fumbles and a turnover on downs — combined with countless penalties — doomed most chances for the School of the Osage Indians Friday night against the visiting Indians of Seneca.
Both teams came into the matchup at 1-1 on the season and off drastically different seasons in which Osage finished 9-3 and Seneca finished 3-6, a home loss to Osage by a score of 36-19 included.
Though this time around it was the Indians of southwest Missouri who repaid the favor on the visiting turf, handing Osage its’ first loss of the 2017 season by a final tally of 27-7 in a game that featured close to 15 penalties by both teams.
Though there wasn’t much to celebrate on offense, the Osage defense — who battled awful field position all night — managed to keep the game within striking distance until late in the second half. The defensive special teams unit also made a number of impact plays that kept multiple more points off the board.
Seneca scored the first points on the first possession of the game after converting a 3rd-and-long and then sustaining the drive with a solid rushing attack capped off with a one-yard score, establishing the tone for this rematch.
On Osage’s first possession, a fumbled handoff backed the Indians deep into their own territory before senior quarterback Zach Wheeler would be intercepted for the first of four times by a defensive secondary unit that was consistently jumping routes all night and a front seven of linebackers and defensive linemen that kept the three-year starter on the run for most of night.
After a quiet first quarter that saw each side exchange penalties and punts, Osage was looking to tie the score early in the second quarter when a low Wheeler pass — ruled behind the line of scrimmage — couldn’t be hauled in by an Indian receiver. Seneca took over at the opposing 29-yard-line.
After forcing a turnover on downs, the Osage offense took over at their own 34-yard-line with 8:49 remaining in the second quarter. A series of penalties forced Osage into a 4th-and-19 punt that resulted in an impressive punt return touchdown from a speedy Seneca player who managed to break several tackles and reverse field before skirting down the sideline and into the end zone.
It happened to be mostly all for naught as a holding penalty returned the ball to Osage’s 34-yard-line. However, the consistent and mostly mistake-free Seneca offense wasted little time capitalizing on the tremendous field position set up by the return.
On the very next play, junior quarterback Gavin Clouse threaded a beautiful pass into the outstretched arms of diving sophomore running back Monty Mailes who landed in the end zone for the game’s second score.
The Indians blocked the ensuing extra point attempt to hold the score to 13-0, but the second interception would give Seneca another chance to convert a turnover into points. Nonetheless, the Osage defense would hold strong and the special teams unit would force a missed field goal attempt.
After taking over possession at their own 20-yard-line, a holding penalty wiped out a Wheeler first down run, but senior running back / linebacker Austin Magnuson, perhaps Osage’s most dependable player on both offense and defense Friday night, converted a 2nd-and-20 on a reverse bootleg screen pass from Wheeler in which Magnuson carried the ball deep into Seneca’s territory.
With time winding down in the first half, Osage was on the verge of making it a one-possession game, but Wheeler was intercepted at the goal line and Seneca would kneel on the following play to carry a 13-0 lead into the locker rooms.
The Indians of Osage received first possession in the second half, but quickly found themselves looking at a 4th-and-24 after another penalty and were forced to punt. Following a Seneca first down that brought the Indians to the opposing 47-yard-line, Clouse hit junior wide receiver Chase Willis who streaked most of those yards for a touchdown and a commanding 19-0 lead with 10 minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The special teams unit responded again by stomping Seneca from converting a two-point conversion attempt, but the offense turned the ball over on downs on the ensuing drive after stalling out at the Seneca 34-yard-line.
A potential swing of momentum in favor of Osage in the form of an interception — what would have been the first and only takeaway of the evening for Head Coach Devin Johnson’s team — was called back on a defensive holding penalty.
As Seneca would settle for a field goal attempt in Osage territory with time expiring in the third quarter, the defensive special teams unit made another impact play, breaking through the line to apply pressure to the holder and kicker who pushed the attempt far right.
Trailing 19-0 with 9:31 remaining in the 4th quarter, the Osage offense was facing a 4th-and-two situation in their own territory when a pass by Wheeler was deflected at the line of scrimmage, but junior wide receiver Dalton Depee — who made multiple nice runs after catches — laid out for the wobbling pigskin and somehow came down with the reception.
As it seemed to go all night, on the next play a deep pass intended for an Osage receiver was intercepted near the sideline and Seneca regained any bit of momentum Depee had just created. The defense of Osage would hold strong one more time, forcing a Seneca three-and-out, before the defensive special teams made its’ biggest play off the night.
With 7:58 remaining in the last quarter, the Osage special teams unit, again, broke through the line and bull rushed the Seneca punter which resulted in a blocked attempt and the Indians best field position of the night at the opposing 21-yard-line.
Then came Osage’s only score of the night when Wheeler dropped back in the pocket and connected with senior wide receiver Drake Gaines who used his 6-foot-3 frame to win a jump ball with a Seneca defensive back near the front corner of the end zone, almost out of bounds.
After a failed onside kick attempt, Seneca would seal the game for good scoring on a 20-yard direct snap to an off-set running back as Osage defenders keyed to the quarterback and fullback over the center with 4:19 remaining.
Down 27-7 with the Indians offense set to regain the ball and no reason to doubt the special teams unit that had played extremely well all evening, Seneca’s kicker — who on every kickoff deployed a squib-style kick that involved multiple awkward bounces — at last, got an Osage player to bite and attempt to field the ball cleanly resulting in the final turnover of the night before Seneca ran out the final seconds of the clock.
School of the Osage (1-1) will host another set of Indians when Hallsville (1-1) travels to town next Friday night. Coming off a 41-7 loss to Mark Twain, both teams will be looking to re-enter the win column.