Osage football rolls past Fulton with dominant finish in season opener

MICHAEL LOSCH, Lake Sun Sports Editor
Osage sophomore receiver Hunter Graber (left) celebrates his touchdown reception with Head Coach Devin Johnson in the season opener against Fulton on Friday, August 28 in Osage Beach. Graber's touchdown catch from junior quarterback Brockton McLaughlin was Osage's first play of the 2020 season.

It had the makings of a shootout. Then Osage decided to erase any remaining doubt. 

The Indians hosted Fulton in the season opener Friday night and holding a slim 29-28 lead at halftime, Osage got back to work and ended the night a little more comfortably with a 63-36 win.  

“He just told us to keep going and keep the momentum,” Osage junior quarterback Brockton McLaughlin said of Head Coach Devin Johnson’s message at the break. “Can’t come out slow, that happened a lot last year, but just had to come out fast and keep going.”  

Well, that is probably because Johnson knew his team had a depth advantage and the ability to keep players fresh with rotations. His hunch that Fulton may eventually run out of gas proved to be true and it was just a matter of containing sophomore quarterback Courtland Simmons, who made a number of big plays to keep his team within striking distance in the first half. 

“They (Fulton) are a good team and when they are playing well they are really good. Courtland Simmons is that kind of player, too,” Johnson noted. “When things are going well for him he is a very explosive player and he made a lot of big plays tonight. I was really proud of the way we responded in the second half. You give up four scores in the first half and only give up one in the second so I was really proud of the way our guys came out, made adjustments and finished the game.” 

And as well as the Indians finished, the night could not have started out any better. 

Osage sophomore Eric Hood forced a fumble on the opening kickoff that sophomore Dalton Wall recovered on Fulton’s 17-yard line. Then, on Osage’s first play of the 2020 season, McLaughlin found sophomore receiver Hunter Graber near the corner of the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown pass.  

“It felt pretty good. Was not really expecting that,” McLaughlin said of his first throw of the year. 

“I think we are one of the only states in the country playing football right now so we have to play every snap like it is our last because you never know what is going to happen. I just gave it my all tonight and we ended up with a win.” 

Fulton’s troubles did not end there, either. The Hornets coughed up the football on their next two drives as well, which were recovered by senior Jackson Creasy, and the Indians took advantage of the third one as McLaughlin scored on a 1-yard sneak up the middle. Things started so well, in fact, that the Indians had a miscue on the ensuing extra point but it was converted into two points on a pass from the holder McLaughlin to senior Drew Elley to make it 15-0. 

The Hornets hung around, though, converting a 4th-and-4 on the next drive in the second quarter with a 25 yard completion and following it up with a 5-yard touchdown run by junior James Walker. The second quarter turned into a scoring frenzy as both sides traded several touchdowns. 

Creasy scored on a 4-yard touchdown run to extend Osage’s lead in a game the Indians never trailed and fellow senior running back Kenan Webb added a 9-yard score. For Fulton, Simmons displayed his playmaking abilities with a 54-yard touchdown on a designed run and 31-yard touchdown pass. He also came up big after the Hornets recovered an onside kick just before the break by converting a 4th-and-9 and a 4th-and-5 before his team punched in a 4-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to a single point.

Osage did not waste any time in the third quarter as McLaughlin found some room on a 23-yard touchdown run to start the second half. The Indian defense found its footing, too, forcing a three-and-out on Fulton’s first possession and they took advantage with a 22-yard touchdown run by Webb. Simmons had one more trick left up his sleeve with an 83-yard run down the sideline to the house before Osage shut things down the rest of the way. 

Creasy and Webb each scored one more time for their third touchdowns of the night on runs of 17 yards and six yards respectively and sophomore defensive back Konner Vaughn killed any remaining Fulton momentum with an interception between the two scoring drives. While the running backs may get the credit, Creasy knew his offensive line was the reason he found the end zone.  

“It is awesome, man, because those are the guys that are letting us running backs in the backfield shine and they are awesome because they are always just opening up big holes every play,” he pointed out.  

Before the season started, Johnson was already excited about the unit’s potential and the offensive line passed the first test with flying colors. The coach noted there were nine who played the first three quarters and Osage found most of its offensive success, too, without starting junior left tackle Davis Sallee most of the evening due to a nagging injury.  

“The depth we have really is a huge benefit to us. You could see when they are clicking together, they are creating space and it is pretty fun to watch,” Johnson said, coming off a season in 2019 where his offense averaged 16 points per outing. “It does not matter who is in the backfield, if you have that much space you are going to have a pretty nice play.”  

Of course, it still takes a field general to operate things and Johnson was just as happy with the performance of his quarterback Friday night. The coach noted that McLaughlin’s execution of the option made things a little easier on the field and it was just a pretty nice start, overall. 

“When we were having a good tempo it was because of him. He is leading, getting the guys ready and communicating everything,” he stated. “He threw the ball very efficiently in the first half and you think well, a quarterback has to throw the ball to put up those numbers. Well, no, he showed he could run the ball.  

“There is a lot in the game he does that you don’t just see in the stands. When you see the big runs and throwing ability, a lot of that is being set up from him.” 

In the midst of uncertainty and a pandemic that continues on, the Indians got the kind of night they were hoping for. There may be masks being worn, designated spots for individual water bottles spaced six feet apart on the sideline and salutes to the opposing team instead of handshakes at the end of the game, but all that is fine with Creasy if it means he can play football. 

“It is always in the back of your head that you might not have a season so I'm willing to do anything it takes to play football and I think anybody else on this team is, too,” the senior said of his final season opener on the gridiron with Osage.  

Osage (1-0) heads to Moberly next Friday night for another kickoff at 7 p.m. Johnson is expecting a physical bunch in the Spartans. 

“Fulton is a very athletic team, but I thought we had little bit of an advantage up front. Moberly is going to be a very physical team as well,” he stated. “They want to run the ball and are a power-running team. They have a fast, athletic quarterback just like us and they are going to let him run the ball a little bit. It is going to be a different ballgame, a physical game, and I would like to say we’ll score 63 every week but I don’t know if we could quite keep up that pace. They return a lot of starters and bring back a lot of guys and it will be good test week two.” 

This story will be updated with official stats when they are available.