The ability to come together as one- whether it is players, coaches, families or the community as a whole- is a pretty good culture to have.

There is plenty of food to go around for football players at School of the Osage.

The opportunity to bond over a team meal begins on Thursday nights when a senior hosts his fellow seniors for a dinner. From there it shifts to Friday afternoons when the kitchen staff feeds the team at Upper Elementary hours before game time and Dierbergs provides the team a meal for each Sunday afternoon film session. Even on Fridays when the team does not have school, Hy-Vee comes in to provide a breakfast when the team gathers in the high school commons.

There is plenty of fuel for football and Osage players are thankful for the support.

“You have this feeling like the whole town is behind you,” Osage senior Matt McCubbin said. “If they are providing stuff for you, it is kind of like, ‘Oh, I have to provide something back to them,’ which is a win on Friday like everyone would want.”

One of those people has been backing the Indians for 32 years. Cindy Hutzler is the Food Service Director at School of the Osage and she began doing her part to feed the football team on Friday afternoons at the Upper Elementary about 15 years ago when Shannon Jolley- a former head coach at Osage and Eldon and current head coach at Capital City- was leading the Indians.

“This is one of my favorite times of the week. The kids are so grateful and it is kind of like I’m part of the team,” said Hutzler who recalls some players telling her that she has fed their fathers as well.

The food service director is not alone in her efforts, though. There are two or three cooks who help organize the meal each Friday as well and make the task a little easier.

“I’m not the only one but just happen to be the one that is always here. It takes our whole kitchen and if I was not here someone else would take over and feed the boys on Friday night,” Hutzler said. “It is just what we do.”

Before anyone lines up to get their share of the sustenance that will carry them through Friday night, Head Coach Devin Johnson has one of the players introduce Hutzler and her staff as a token of appreciation. As per tradition, the “Blackfoot” (linemen) get to go first because of the work they do in the trenches to help their teammates succeed.

“They do an amazing job of making sure our team gets fed very well every Friday night. Our team is truly appreciative of the effort they put into feeding our guys,” the coach said of Hutzler and her staff.

The reciprocity has not gone unnoticed either- not that Hutzler was looking for any kind of recognition. However, the kindness and manners shown by the team is just one reason Hutzler says she enjoys the occasion and does not mind doing it.

“They are so appreciative and so polite. They really are good kids and easy to feed,” she remarked.

“Every Friday night I don’t think there is one boy who walks through that line that does not say, ‘Thank you Miss Cindy. Thank you for all you do.’ They clean up after themselves and the custodians don’t have to worry about it. If they come and eat early and the little ones are still here, they interact with the Upper Elementary kids and it is good for the whole district to see them over here.”

And it is precisely that kind of bond and sense of community that can make these weekly occasions so special. Johnson commended the efforts of Hy-Vee and Dierbergs for their support over the years as well, but whatever the source may be, it is a way for everyone to get to know each other better beyond the “Friday Night Lights.”

McCubbin, who is one of the seniors that have hosted a Thursday night dinner already this season, was glad to do so because he felt that bond as he and his fellow seniors ate together and went swimming just having a good time and being themselves.

“It is a lot stronger and feels like it is a lot tighter than family,” the senior said of the bond. “We all know each other. For seniors, we know this is coming to and end- and hopefully not soon- but I have some seniors I don’t really know the best. I know some seniors better than others and this kind of brings us all together as one, truly one.”

It is a tradition Johnson has been happy to carry out to connect the families of players and the ability to come together as one- whether it is players, coaches, families or the community as a whole- is a pretty good culture to have. There may be plenty of fuel for football, but that kind of nourishment is unmatched.