The key to any successful year on the gridiron begins with the work a team puts in the offseason. In the summer of 2011, the Osage football team came ready to work.

Osage defensive coordinator Nathan Dains remembers that year quite well where the team’s efforts that season proved fruitful as the Indians finished the year 13-1 and made a trip to the state semifinals. Dains said all that success began in the weight room.

“We preach about the weight room because those kids were weight room warriors,” Dains noted. “Even when we were done with our workout, I would say 10 of those kids would stay and do extra work after we were done with our workout. We point back to that and point back to that success.

“We’ve had a couple of years since then that have been pretty stinking good, but we still always point to that weight room. Those kids loved it and loved working together,” Dains added.

Dains said the team that year was a very senior-heavy group, but accountable from top to bottom. The defensive coordinator arrived at Osage the year those seniors were freshmen and noted that it was a privilege to watch them develop and go on to put together the best season in school history.

“It was phenomenal. They made my job easy and were very coachable kids,” Dains stated. “I remember a situation where I had to go pick a kid up for ‘7-on-7’ and by the time I got to Camdenton, they had already played two series of defense and got an interception on both series. I was not even there to call the defense and they just kind of took it and ran with it. That made me feel good and made me feel like what we had done the past four years was transpiring into success.”

Things only got better as the fall arrived. That year, Osage went on to set all kinds of school records for defensive touchdowns, special team touchdowns, punt blocks and more. The Indians also outscored their opponents 588 to 155 (433-point differential) and were just one game away from playing for a state championship.

“They were kids that no matter how big they were, they loved to hit, they loved to play for one another, they played with a lot of passion and they played with a lot of intensity,” Dains said. “It was just a fun group. They wanted to score every time they touched the ball.”

Osage went on to visit John Burroughs High School in St. Louis with a trip to the state title game on the line. On their way, the Indians got to stop by Columbia and practice at Faurot Field where Mizzou plays to get ready for a Bombers team that featured current Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.

“He (Ezekiel) is a talented kid, but he was not the only one they had. They had lots of talented kids,” Dains said of John Burroughs.

The game started off well for Osage as the Indians gained an early lead, but John Burroughs was a little bit better that day as they came away with a 39-14 win.

“We got on top of them early. We blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown and our crowd was going crazy,” Dains remarked. “We had people there with an RV bus honking their horn, going crazy and everything. We had lots of support and tons of people there in St. Louis that day.

‘“But you know what? A kid like Ezekiel is just tough to corral. We played well for the most part, but we were just a little bit outmatched that day.”

Still, it was an experience Dains said he and the players will not soon forget.

“I don’t think the kids let the moment get too big for them and they enjoyed it. They took it all in, had a good time and still talk about the day they played against Ezekiel Elliott and John Burroughs,” he stated.

And today, the players that represented Osage in 2011 are still talked about and used as an example of what can be possible with a little hard work.

“A lot of these kids now were in middle school or elementary school and they remember coming and watching those games and seeing kids like Jared Edwards break the state record for punt returns and scoring touchdowns right and left,” Dains said. “We had a lot of good things going and the community was so much behind it, that of course it carries over. Now, the challenge is to live up to those expectations with every other grade that comes through.”

Time will soon tell if current and future players are ready to put in the effort.