Osage is coming off a 3-7 campaign in 2019 that ended with a loss to Salem in the first round of districts. The Indians will look to reverse their fortunes, beginning with the season opener this Friday night.

It was a refreshing sight to see for Osage coach Devin Johnson. 

The Indians hosted their own team scrimmage Friday evening and while a friendly scrimmage is nothing new for the program, it simply had a different feel in the midst of a global pandemic where the fate of the season still hangs in the balance. For Johnson, it actually felt like a real Friday night.

“We are just excited to be out there,” the coach said, noticing quite a few people showed up even though there was no opponent. “It gives you the sense that people want to get back in the swing of things, get back in that fall routine of school and Friday night football so we are really excited about hosting week one. It is hard to tell where your team is at from a scrimmage like that when you split your guys up evenly so it was just good that guys were competitive and got a little bit of a live action feel and got their feet wet.” 

At first, Johnson was simply grateful just to have football. Now, entering his seventh year as the head coach, he is eager to see how his team fares against someone in a different jersey after months of camps and practices that began on July 13.  

Osage is coming off a 3-7 campaign in 2019 that ended with a loss to Salem in the first round of districts. The Indians will look to reverse their fortunes, beginning with the season opener this Friday night. 

“It just feels like for almost two months now we’ve been beating the tar out of each other so we are ready to hit somebody else. That might be the most exciting part for our guys and I think this week, too, there is a renewed focus because now we have a specific game plan to put in and a specific opponent we are preparing for,” the coach noted. “You are wanting something new. I think a renewed focus is good for our guys as well and we are just really tremendously happy to get on the field.” 

The Osage offense returns five starters in 2020, all along the offensive line. Johnson is particularly excited about this unit, too, as the backbone of an offense that features multiple sets out of the I-formation. In 2019, the Indians put up 287.8 yards and 16 points per game. 

Senior guard Jace Hills is back (2nd team All-Conference, All-District and All-Region) along with center Connor Arrowood and junior 6-foot-4 tackle Davis Sallee, who started at left tackle as a sophomore. Senior guard Tyler Dimmick moved back to Osage from Butler and senior 6-foot-4 tackle Brody Wisecarver should become a nice addition as a returning Class 6 First Team All-State selection from St. Louis who is currently committed to the University of Illinois. Together, this group averages 263 pounds up front. 

Junior Brockton McLaughlin will look to begin a full season as the starting quarterback after seeing limited time as a sophomore where he went 24-54 for 416 yards, three touchdowns and five interceptions while rushing for another 71 yards and a score. Johnson likes McLaughlin’s arm and will be looking for him to deliver to a pair of new wide receivers in senior Drew Elley and sophomore Hunter Graber. Also look for senior Keenan Webb to handle things on the ground at running back after not being able to play last season.  

The Indian defense also features four returning starters as the group seeks to improve upon the 165 rushing yards, 155 passing yards and 28 points per game allowed in 2019. Returning up front in the 4-3 formation is senior defensive end Jackson Creasy and junior defensive tackle Shane Thomas, who are among the team’s top returning tacklers. Sophomore Derek Bradley will also look to create some pressure up front and junior safety Keigan Vaughn provides some experience in the secondary. Another player who is expected to make an impact is sophomore linebacker Eric Hood, who has been touted for his athleticism. 

The first test of the season for Osage is a Fulton team that finished 3-7 a season ago, which included a 14-6 defeat from the Indians. It is a brand new season, though, and Johnson said there are a few things that will need to quickly be remedied like eliminating turnovers, being in the right spots on defense and being sound on special teams, which is a primary emphasis during the summer. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.

“Fulton is a very good team and very athletic. They are young, but they have a sophomore and junior class that is pretty strong and you can tell they are excited about them and the ones who are going to carry that team,” Johnson said of the Hornets. “We cannot give them extra possessions because they are an explosive team offensively.” 

However things play out Friday night and the course of the season as a whole, the coach is just looking for his program to remain “One Tribe,” which is this season’s theme. It is not just a phrase either, but an acronym.

“I think if we can live that out we’ll be successful. We are in this together,” Johnson remarked. “We kind of feel like we are in a bubble where we’ve been together a long time and there are people out there who don’t think we should be doing what we are doing. We are just grateful for every day we get. Our theme this year means it is about us, sacrificing for my brother and ’T.R.I.B.E.’ stands for trust, responsibility, intensity, brotherhood and effort. If we can live out those five things every day, I think we’ll be a pretty tough team.”