School of the Osage set the tone early.
The offense marched the ball down the field, the defense pitched a shutout and the end result was a 38-0 win at Warsaw Friday night.
"It is always important to punch them in the mouth early," Osage senior Nick Riley said of the mindset needed on Friday nights. "Show them who is going to dominate the game and let them know they are never going to be on top."
Turns out all of his teammates were on the same page. After Warsaw started to gain some momentum on the opening drive of the game with eight plays and crossed into Indian territory, the Osage defense forced a fumble and the Indians never looked back.
Osage needed just five plays and a little over two minutes to score as senior quarterback Zach Wheeler hit senior running back Magnuson on a 29-yard screen that saw the senior carry Wildcat tacklers into the end zone to make it 6-0 at 7:02. The next drive took just over a minute as Wheeler found his running back Riley on a 10-yard touchdown pass in the teeth of the Warsaw defense and Magnuson made it 18-0 by the end of the first quarter as he dashed for a 43-yard touchdown run while running over two more Wildcats.
"Honestly I do not score a whole lot, so it felt good scoring twice," Magnuson said of his two touchdowns. "I was ecstatic... and Nick over here did the same thing so it was awesome to see as a teammate too."
Of course, any touchdown run usually requires some blocking and Magnuson did not hesitate to also compliment the "Blackfoot" offensive line.
"They did a great job tonight and were pretty much flawless," Magnuson noted. "It was awesome to run behind them when they are pushing kids four or five yards and you cannot ask for anything better."
The second quarter did not run quite as smoothly as Osage would have liked. A Wheeler pass to senior wideout Drake Gaines that resembled a jump ball was intercepted in the end zone, another pass to junior receiver Dalton Depeé was bobbled and also picked off and the Indians also marched to the Wildcat 18-yard line before a turnover on downs ensued.
Still, Osage held its ground and finished out the half strong as the offense marched 70 yards in just over two minutes to see Riley jump over the pile for a 1-yard score with two seconds remaining to make it 24-0 at the break.
"The defense was in good position and made good plays," Osage coach Devin Johnson said of the two errant throws. "What we preach after a bad or negative play is that the next play is the most important play. So, in the face of adversity we have to rise to the challenge and I think our guys showed that tonight."
Indeed, Osage came out swinging in the second half as the Riley cousins went to work. On the second play from scrimmage, Nick made a punishing 50-yard run breaking multiple tackles to the Warsaw 4-yard line and senior wideout Ian Riley finished off the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run.
Once again, the offensive line deserved plenty of credit and Johnson also took some time to point out the efforts of senior Chris Halsell, who had missed the last couple of weeks and brought some needed energy up front.
"Our guys are big and strong," Johnson stated. "This week we really focused on us, focused on getting better at what we do and that starts with them. We are pretty fortunate to have some good players up there, Coach (Charlie) Gordon does a tremendous job and they just did a good job of playing the right man and taking care of the blocking scheme correctly.”
Osage rushed for a total of 218 yards on the night with Nick leading the way on eight carries for 77 yards while Magnuson rushed for 51 yards of his own on just four carries. Wheeler completed eight of his 12 passes for 145 yards and Gaines led the receiving corps with three receptions for 69 yards while Nick also pulled in three receptions for 39 yards.
Warsaw threatened to score one more time as the Wildcats drove to the Indian 4-yard line midway through the third quarter, but the Osage defensive unit had no intentions of ruining the shutout. On 4th-and-2, Magnuson chased down the Warsaw quarterback from his linebacker position and forced a fumble that was scooped up and returned by junior linebacker Garrett Sutherland 95 yards to the house to create the final margin.
It was just one of a number of solid plays from the Indian defense. The Wildcats had 12 offensive drives that resulted in five three-and-outs, three turnovers and two failed fourth down conversion attempts. Osage also forced Warsaw to into 3rd-and-8 or more on seven of those drives.
"Our defense did a good job of forcing turnovers and negative plays," Johnson remarked. "I kind of felt our defense exhaled a little bit... and we missed some tackles on a couple of plays that turned out to be some pretty big plays for them, but our guys did a good job of responding. It was pretty impressive."
Magnuson recorded 15 tackles to lead the defensive unit, Depeé put up 12 and both Nick and senior Ben Baker finished the night with nine respectively.
It was a successful start to the first of three straight road games for Osage as the Indians are now on a winning streak. Johnson pointed out that it is important to keep building and take a step forward each week, continuing to improve on the positive things and addressing the areas of weakness. The coach was also glad to see his guys stay healthy Friday night as they get ready for the challenges ahead.
"We have to get used to playing well on the road and I've always believed that if you are going to get where you want to get at the end of the season, you have to play a tough team on the road and win," he said. "I think it is an important attribute to be able to play your best ball wherever it is and whatever the situation is, so our guys did a good job of coming out here, executing and doing what they had to do. We are pleased with that."
Nick Riley, for one, is certainly not satisfied with the status quo and knows there is plenty of football left to be played.
"We have to focus on the big goal. We can't just say, 'Oh we are 3-1 and we have a winning streak.' That is not where we want to be," the senior stated. "We want three titles (conference, district and state) and we have to get them one by one so that is what we are going to focus on."
Up next for the Indians is a trip to Southern Boone on Friday night as Osage grinds through the Tri-County Conference schedule. Johnson said the Eagles, like many teams in the conference, cannot be underestimated.
"Our conference is tremendous and it is really an impressive conference," the coach said. "Every week there is going to be a good team that we play and Southern Boone has a lot of good athletes and a lot of good weapons. They are big up front and their quarterback has been hurt the last couple of weeks, but I'm sure he'll be healthy and ready to go. They just have a lot of weapons we are going to have to contain and we are going to have to play disciplined football to win the game."
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.