Buffalo senior quarterback Jamen Smith had a knack for finding the end zone Friday night and School of the Osage could not find a way to keep him out of it.

Buffalo senior quarterback Jamen Smith had a knack for finding the end zone Friday night and School of the Osage could not find a way to keep him out of it. 

The senior ran for five touchdowns, threw for another three and sent the top-seeded Bison to the district championship game with a 63-24 win in the Class 3 District 5 semifinals. Smith led his team on seven straight scoring drives and while the fourth-seeded  Indians matched Buffalo for the first two scores, penalties and turnovers proved costly as Smith and the Bison kept right on rolling. 

“You are playing catch-up, it feels like, all night,” Osage coach Devin Johnson said. “It was not our cleanest game and offensively, we turned the ball over too many times. Defensively, we had guys in the right spots and just could not finish tackles. I’ll give credit to their quarterback, he is a tough runner and a good player.” 

Smith and company got started with a 53-yard scoring drive on the opening possession of the night and it culminated with a 5-yard touchdown run for the senior on a quarterback keeper. The Indians came right back with a 1-yard quarterback keeper from junior Brockton McLaughlin to finish a 63-yard drive, but the ensuing extra point snap was botched and preserved a 7-6 Buffalo lead. Smith answered with a 27-yard touchdown run and McLaughlin was able to scramble 58 yards to the house  to bring the deficit to 14-12 after a failed 2-point conversion run. 

But the Indians simply could not keep up. 

Smith broke a few tackles on the next possession, rumbling his way to the end zone for a 64-yard touchdown run near the end of the first quarter and after an Osage fumble, the floodgates opened and the Bison immediately took advantage scoring 28 of the game’s next 34 points to close out the half and create a 49-18 cushion.  

Junior Jaren Smith punched in a 5-yard run for Buffalo to open the second quarter and after an Osage three-and-out, Jamen connected with junior Cameron Portis for the first of three touchdown passes on the night. The first one went for 29 yards up the seam, the second was a 26-yard strike  and the third was an 18-yard touchdown pass to complete seven straight scoring drives.  

“We actually ran a couple of spy blitzes on him to where were trying to keep a couple of guys that keyed him and only keyed him,” Johnson said of the defensive adjustments to try and slow down the Buffalo quarterback. “Honestly, we kind of got in each other’s way a little bit, but we just got outmatched and outplayed tonight. It really comes down to that. We just were not the better team on the football field tonight and I think that if we would’ve executed a little cleaner offensively and made a few stops defensively, we had a chance and opportunity to beat them but tonight was not our night.” 

Osage managed to add one more score in the half on another McLaughlin 1-yard keeper. However, to get there, the Indians had to overcome a 3rd-and-32 play where the quarterback was able to run 30 yards before finding sophomore receiver Hunter Graber for a first down on 4th-and-2 to keep the drive alive. A few too many times, the Indians were backed up by penalties and the offense finished with three fumbles on the night to halt any rhythm that may have been developing. 

“I think we shot ourselves in the foot more than they stopped us and we just cannot do that. In the games we lost this year, that has kind of been the theme,” Johnson pointe out. “We slow ourselves down and get in our own way.” 

Osage came out of the half and finished a 73-yard drive with a touchdown pass from McLaughlin to Graber, but it proved to be the final score of the night for the Indians. Meanwhile, Smith added two more touchdown runs from four yards out and 30 yards out, respectively, to wrap up the scoring in the third quarter. 

McLaughlin completed 13 of his 22 passes for 147 yards and rushed for another 142 yards on 15 carries. Sophomore running back Eric Hood added 60 yards on the ground on 10 carries as the team finished with 259 rushing yards overall. Graber led all receivers with three catches for 51 yards while sophomore Derek Bradley added a trio of catches for 37 yards and senior Drew Elley hauled in four catches for 34 yards. 

The loss brings another season to an end as the Indians finish 4-7, but this season was unlike any other in the midst of a global pandemic. With so much uncertainty, Johnson said he was glad to see this senior class get to complete a full season. 

“I’m proud of our guys and the season they had. The thing I’m most proud about is that the seniors got to have a senior season,” Johnson said. “There are so many places across this country where kids are just getting it taken away from them without a chance so I’m glad they got to experience this. 

“It has been great for our community, great for our school and great for these kids, so, happy we were provided an opportunity to play.”  

And beyond what takes place on the gridiron on Friday nights, Johnson pointed to the little things the seniors did behind the scenes that does not always get noticed.  

“We have four seniors every Saturday morning show up and referee flag football. They help out with our youth camps,” the coach noted. “What we tell them all the time is those young guys, the future of our program, they don’t know who Coach Johnson is per se. They know who those guys are on the field. They know who those players are so they are the ones who really move the needle in our program.” 

As for those who are returning Johnson commended them for stepping up into tough roles this season. With a little hard work in the offseason, it could pay dividends in the Friday nights to come.  

“We had to grow up pretty fast and we started six or seven sophomores on defense the last few weeks. if you look at our offense, we have four offensive linemen who are seniors and everyone else is coming back pretty much with the exception of Drew Elley at wide receiver,” the coach said. “They were asked to step up in situations they probably were not ready for and I thought they grew up and got better throughout the year. We just need to remember we are not quite there yet. We are getting closer, but we have to have a great offseason and get bigger, stronger and faster and Coach (Jacob) Evans will get them there.” 

With another chapter of Osage football at an end, that journey will soon get started.