As the slot receiver on the side of the play where Blake Robertson's run from the 3-yard line happened to veer, Fort Osage senior Dominic Myers had a clear view and feared Robertson might fumble, the way he was carrying the ball.
“When the hit came, I saw the ball come out, and it just happened to fall right there,” Myers said. “One-step touchdown.
“It hit the ground, and I was just (in the) right place, right time.”
It was Robertson's only carry of the game, but the fortuitous bounce to Myers came with 3 seconds left and lifted Fort Osage to a 21-14 Suburban Middle Seven win over Oak Park at Staley High School.
The Indians were missing five regulars on defense and four on offense, including all three defensive linemen and 40 percent of the offensive line, and Oak Park controlled most of the game with a steady ground attack. But Fort Osage made enough big stops on defense and enough big plays with the ball to gut out a win and improve to 3-2 overall and 2-1 in conference play.
“This will be one to remember,” Fort Osage coach Brock Bult said. “Our kids, they fought. They had to help each other.
“Our defense has fought all year. We've had some troubles in the fourth quarter, and tonight they got it done in the fourth quarter.”
Fort Osage's winning drive started at its 20 with 4:40 play, after Oak Park (2-3, 2-2) put together a 14-play drive – all on the ground – but missed a 30-yard field goal.
On third-and-17 from its 29, faced with a punt a chance for Oak Park to win it or take it to overtime, Fort Osage quarterback Ty Baker zipped a pass to wide receiver Richard Wiseman for 23 yards.
Four snaps later, Baker ran up the middle for 21 yards to the Oak Park 17. Brandon Gregory Jr. rushed for 11 more yards and Von Young hit the line for 3 to set up Robertson's near-touchdown that went to Myers instead – his second of the game.
The speedy 5-foot-5 Myers needed a few more steps for his first touchdown – a deep heave that he caught in stride from Baker for a 60-yard touchdown two plays into the third quarter. That and Keegan Lammering's extra-point kick tied the game at 14.
“I had a back-side seam read, and I could take a deep route, post it or dig it,” said Myers, who had five catches for 97 yards. “Me and Ty, we're very close on our chemistry, and I knew if I could post it, he would find me.”
The Indians then stopped the Northmen on downs at the 20- and 27-yard line in the third. Oak Park, which had 285 yards rushing and nothing on four pass attempts, threatened to take the lead in the fourth, but a couple penalties stalled its drive before the field goal try.
Oak Park also lost a fumble at the Fort Osage 15 in the second quarter. But Avery Williams blocked the Indians' punt soon after to set up the Northmen at the 9, and Colton Tisthammer (17 carries, 77 yards) scored from 5 yards out for a 14-7 lead.
Fort Osage recovered an Oak Park fumble on the game's third play but couldn't take advantage, and Lammering's 32-yard field goal clanked off the upright. Oak Park then drove 80 yards in eight plays, as Phil Corbin (28 carries, 186 yards) scored on a 2-yard run.
Fort Osage had the quickest response, though, as Cahleel Smith took the kickoff at the 20 on the left hash, started up the middle and then bounced right and found clear sailing an 80-yard kick return.
“We have one where you go up and bounce, but that kid's a freak athlete and just makes plays,” Bult said of Smith.
On a night when Fort Osage struggled to run by design, Baker willed the team at times. He rushed for 96 yards on 19 carries, more than half of them scrambles, and completed 10 of 20 passes for 141 yards. He also was intercepted at the goal line late in the second quarter, ending a 12-play drive.
Baker said he knew the team would struggle some given the number of injured players out, so it had to bounce back quickly and stay level-headed.
“I told the guys before the game, it doesn't matter what happens, we've got to keep our composure,” Baker said. “Just move on to the next play.”
And be ready if the ball bounces your way.