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Osborne one win away from title appearance

By NICK McQUEEN

nmcqueen@dailynews.net

The Osborne High School football team isn't looking at Friday's game as a rematch with Clifton-Clyde, a team it beat three weeks ago by 48 points.

The Bulldogs aren't even looking at it as the first meeting with the Eagles.

It doesn't matter who Osborne is playing, coach Steve Tiernan said.

It's the sub-state championship game and his Bulldogs have to be ready to play like it.

Osborne, 11-0 and ranked No. 1 in the statewide media poll, travels to Clifton for a 7 p.m. start Friday. The winner punches its ticket to the Eight-Man Division I state championship game next week in Newton.

"They have to be excited," Tiernan said of his club. "They'd be half dead if they weren't."

The Bulldogs, though, are tired, having had to fight their way through two games in a week against Madison-Hamilton (8-2) and Melvern-Marais Des Cygnes Valley (9-2).

"It was a tough, tough week last week two very good football teams," Tiernan said.

But, Osborne made it through, with a nailbiting 40-34 win against Madison, and a wild 68-52 finish against Marais Des Cygnes.

The Bulldogs are on the verge of their second state title appearance in school history. The last came with a state title in 1983 in Class 3A (11-man). The Bulldogs have made it to this game twice before, falling in the sub-state game in 2010 and 2011, their first two years of Eight-Man. Osbonre lost to Hill City in 2010 and Montezuma-South Gray in 2011.

Though favored on paper, the Bulldogs aren't getting their hopes up just yet. They still have to beat a 9-2 Clifton-Clyde team that beat Peabody-Burns (8-2), 42-26 in the first round, then knocked off upset-minded Yates Center (7-4) on Saturday.

"It's one of those scary games,"  Tiernan said. "Clifton-Clyde doesn't do a whole lot of things, but what they do, they do very well."

The two teams met up in Week 7 of the season, and Osborne grabbed an 80-32 win at home. It was the highest output of the season for Osborne, the highest scoring team in Eight-Man, but Tiernan said the score was deceiving. Osborne got a scoop-and-score on a fumble, a short field inside the 10-yard line on a turnover, and a long pass for a score that bounced off an Eagle helmet.

In that game, though, sophomore quarterback Jake Tiernan, the coach's son, completed 11 of 14 passes for 241 yards and four touchdowns, and the running senior running back duo of Maverick LeRock and Kenton Ubelaker combined for 220 yards and four scores.

Coach Tiernan knows the Eagles well, having coached against them for several years at Baileyville-B&B, where he won two Eight-Man state titles.

"Play them Week 1, 3, 5 or 7, they aren't going to chang a whole lot of things," the coach said. "If you're not ready to play, they're good enough to beat you."

Eagle quarterback Caleb Gelino was labeled "one of the best, if not the best back," the Bulldogs faced all year, Tiernan said. In the first meeting, Gelino pased for 48 yards, but rushed for 130 and a score. The Eagles run what Tiernan called an inverted wishbone offense, and run just a few plays, but have sevearl different blocking schemes. The matchup with Marais Des Cygnes pitted the top two scoring offeses against each other. This week, it will be No. 1 vs. No. 3 in scoring in Division I. Clifton-Clyde has scored 60 or more in five games.

"They just get off the ball well," Tiernan said of the Eagles, which last made the state title game in 2008 when they took second. "They just bring everyone off the line nad bring the backs right through the hole."

Osborne counters with its potent attack that averages 60 points per game. Jake Tiernan still has more passing touchdowns (23) than incompletions (19), and has thrown for 1,353 yards. Plus, LeRock and Ubelaker have each cracked the 1,000-yard rushing barrier with 1,103 and 1,255, respectively with a combined 43 touchdowns. And junior receiver Brandt Wolters has hauled in 14 TD catches with 35 receptions fr 578 yards. The Bulldogs, though, are a little nicked up after a pair of hard-fought victories.

"Once we get there Frdiay, that will go away in a hurry," Coach Tiernan said. "If we don't move on, it's because Clifton-Clyde played better than we did that night."