With the district playoffs just a week away, momentum can help a team keep its season alive and Osage senior Logan Havner helped make sure that momentum belonged to the Indians Friday night in the regular season finale at Eldon.
Momentum is a big thing for any football team to have this time of year.
With the district playoffs just a week away, it can help a team keep its season alive and Osage senior Logan Havner helped make sure that momentum belonged to the Indians Friday night in the regular season finale at Eldon. His touchdown reception just before halftime and another on the first play of the second half put Osage up for good in a 44-24 win over the rivals.
“I think momentum just shifted our way and we knew this was the play, this is where we were meant to be. We just had a good feeling about where we were at,” Havner said.
“It means everything to us. We have momentum going into districts now so that will be really nice for us. The Tri-County (Conference) is one of the hardest to play in the state of Missouri so we are feeling pretty good going into next week.”
And Osage probably should. Those pair of touchdown receptions were part of six straight scoring drives for the Indians after the visitors came up empty on their opening possession. With the game tied at 16 at the break, Osage controlled the second half and scored 28 unanswered points.
“They played with more desire and energy. The momentum shifted their way right before half and the first play of the second half,” Eldon coach Chad Hult pointed out. “They did not make any adjustments so we were still getting the same looks. Their kids just executed better than we did.”
Well, Eldon certainly seemed to have that execution at the start.
The Mustangs opened the game with a 53-yard drive that soaked up 10 minutes of clock as the team converted three fourth down plays including a fourth-and-goal from the 5-yard line that went for a touchdown as sophomore quarterback Dallas Hardy found senior wide receiver Gabe Marriott for the score. Senior fullback Kaden Dillon’s 2-point conversion run put the home side up 8-0. The Mustangs converted two more fourth down plays on their next possession- including a fourth-and-12 play that went for a 23-yard pass to junior receiver Owen Levesque- and Dillon punched in a 1-yard score and 2-point conversion to put Eldon back up 16-8 with 44 seconds remaining before the break.
Then Osage’s defense started to figure some things out as Eldon would not find the end zone again until there were just five minutes remaining in the game. Osage coach Devin Johnson said the defensive staff had some discussions about adjustments. Ultimately, it simply came down to finishing plays as he felt players were in the right spot more times than not. That also included an interception from senior defensive back Luke Funderburk in the fourth quarter.
“They really ate the clock and did a good job controlling the ball,” Johnson said of Eldon’s ground attack and ability to convert all those fourth downs in the first half.
“Our guys made a point to getting energy and enthusiasm on third and fourth downs realizing those plays are big plays.”
Turns out, the offense was just as energized and enthusiastic after the empty opening possession.
Trailing 8-0 early in the second quarter, the Indians responded with a 3-yard touchdown run from senior running back James Hutchcraft that was set up by a big 27-yard pass from senior quarterback Drew Edwards to senior wide receiver Matthew Hans. Hutchcraft’s ensuing 2-point conversion run tied it up and the Indians were not done yet. Osage needed just 20 seconds to go 58 yards and score before halftime as senior tight end Elijah Stark took a pitch and ran the ball 45 yards on the first play and Edwards quickly hit Havner for a 13-yard touchdown pass. Hutchcraft punched in another 2-point conversion to tie the game back up at 16.
Osage continued to roll as Edwards found Havner for a 60-yard touchdown pass on the opening play of the second half. Hutchcraft scored his second and third touchdowns of the night on the following Indian possessions from four and three yards out and sophomore quarterback Brockton McLaughlin dashed in for a 30-yard touchdown run on a quarterback keeper to finish the night.
Edwards completed all five of his passes for 156 yards, Havner had three receptions for 84 yards and Hutchcraft led the ground game with 13 carries for 102 yards as the Indians finished with 201 rushing yards and the team accumulated 374 yards of offense before the night was through.
“I have to give credit to the ‘Blackfoot’ because I could not do it without them,” Hutchcraft said, referring to the nickname given to the offensive line unit. “As you can see, there are 11 people and I love every single one of them. They are great people and they make us look good.”
Hult certainly took notice, noting both Havner and Hutchcraft had a “great” second half. The coach said his secondary also got caught looking in the backfield and that created some issues.
“We got looking in the backfield on their big pass plays which we know shouldn’t happen from the secondary,” he said. “Up front they did a good job getting movement and we just weren’t able to tackle well.”
Eldon was not done just yet, though, as sophomore running back Killian Wilson scored the final Mustang touchdown of the night on a 1-yard run. Eldon finished with 230 yards of offense and Dillon led the way with 93 yards on the ground while Hardy added 77 rushing yards and Levesque put up 29.
Eldon finishes the regular season 1-8 and 1-6 in the Tri-County Conference. The Mustangs are currently slated as the seventh seed in the Class 3 District 5 standings and will head to No. 2 Buffalo to face a 7-2 Bison team Friday night in the first round of the district playoffs at 7 p.m.
“We’ll get a couple of kids back which will help, but we’ve preached week 10 all year so now it’s time to perform,” Hult said of the road ahead. “The message is simple- win or your season is done.”
Osage (3-6, 2-5 Tri-County Conference) ends a five-game skid and will be the fifth seed in the same district as Eldon, visiting No. 4 Salem (6-3) Friday night at 7 p.m. Johnson was undoubtedly happy to see his guys get back on the right track and commended all three phases in the offense, defense and special teams.
“Even individually I thought Drew had his best game, ‘Hutch’ had one of his best games, Hans had one of his best games and Logan had a big play. All around the board, we stepped up in the week nine game where we really needed to win to get some momentum,” the coach said.
Now the question becomes if the Indians can hold on to that momentum next week.
“The cool thing is that no matter who we play, we don’t know anything about them and they don’t know anything about us,” Johnson said before final district seedings were determined. “We have no common opponents so we are not going to really have much to gauge off of.
“But, we do know who we played against and how we performed against them. We know in our conference we played some of the best teams in Class 3 and I don’t know if every team in our district has that on their resume so we are battle-tested an ready to be on the road and win some games. That is what we are expected to do.”
Havner certainly likes this newfound momentum and does not plan to let it go anytime soon.
"Our coach said to bottle this moment, hold the adrenaline and everything going into next week," he said. "We are going to prepare for next week and go ahead and do that."