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8-man state -- Osborne's Wolters fueled by close losses

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

Brandt Wolters enjoyed a strong season as one of the top players for the Osborne baseball team last summer. At the K-18 championships, Osborne faced Victoria in the semifinals. The previous year, Victoria defeated Osborne for the championship.

Victoria took a big lead early and then Osborne started to chip back. Osborne trailed by four runs entering the seventh and final inning. Osborne closed to one run and Wolters, who delivered a key double in his previous at-bat, came to the plate with runners on second and third and two outs. Wolters struck out looking to end the 7-6 game. Victoria went on to win the title.

Before the third-place game, Osborne stayed at the K-18 site in Lucas and had a couple of hours to rest by some trees. Wolters stood off by himself. Coach Steve Tiernan, one of the baseball coaches and also the high school head football coach, walked over to Wolters. Wolters told Tiernan, "I let the whole team down, and I will never do that again." Tiernan told Wolters the team never would have had the season it did without Wolters' play.

"Just the look in his eye and the tone of his voice, you can tell that it bothered him," Tiernan said.

Wolters has used the close finishes without a state title to fuel his football season. Wolters, a junior linebacker and end, leads the Bulldogs with 34 catches for 641 yards and 14 TDs, and 112 tackles with 11 for loss.

"He can play about anywhere," senior fullback Maverick LeRock said. "His freshman year, he played I don't know how many different positions, and he can do them just fine, and he is a great athlete all around, and that's very useful."

Osborne (12-0) faces Hodgeman County (12-0) in the Eight-Man Division I state championship game at 11 a.m. Saturday at Newton's Fischer Field.

"Obviously, that's not very fun striking out semifinals of a state championship game, but I played in one the year before," Wolters said. "We didn't play very good either game. I really want to get a win. We have been really close."

Osborne won the 1983 Class 3A state football championship in its only appearance in a state game. Many of the key players have ties to other state championships -- or played on the baseball teams the last two years. Sophomore quarterback Jake Tiernan, Coach Tiernan's son, has completed 93 of 120 passes for 1,461 yards with 24 scores against five interceptions.

Tiernan coached Baileyville-B&B to five state berths, including state crowns in 2008 and '10. This week, the Tiernans were watching film from a state contest. Steve wanted to show Jake all the lines at Fischer Field, a complex also used for 11-man football and soccer.

In 2008, B&B defeated Clifton-Clyde 24-16 for the state championship. The Falcons' returner nearly stepped out of bounds on accident because of confusion with the lines. On a long run, the Tiernans saw Jake on the sideline, cheering as B&B's water boy.

"In his head, it's always been a dream to go down there and actually get to play, so, for his sake, I am glad that it all worked out," Coach Tiernan said.

Senior running back Kenton Ubelaker leads the team with 2,396 all-purpose yards and 36 TDs, including 1,371 on the ground and 24 scores. His sisters, Brooke and Karie, won state basketball and track titles for Osborne and his dad, Ken, has coached the Bulldogs to a track crown.

Ubelaker has come up with several big plays in the postseason. Once, he ran down a Madison player and forced a fumble at the Osborne 1. Last week, he picked off the game-sealing interception versus Clifton-Clyde.

"Speed in the eight-man football is probably the key, and he has got that," Coach Tiernan said. "Not only does he have that, he has just got football smarts. Just a heady football player. You put those two things together with a guy that can run as well. He is not very tall, but 175 pounds, strong, he is just put together well."

LeRock's father, Wes, played on the 1980 Class 3A Plainville team. Maverick LeRock has 1,218 rushing yards and 24 scores.

For Wolters, he called baseball his favorite sport with football a close second. Wolters displayed power and was a strong pitcher for Osborne. After baseball, Tiernan has noticed a different Wolters this fall.

Because of some blowouts, Wolters didn't see the ball often in some early contests. He enjoyed 144 receiving yards, three scores and 15 tackles in a Week 7 victory against Clifton-Clyde.

In the playoffs, he has 14 catches for 212 yards and four TDs. He has 11, 10 and 11 tackles the last three weeks after two double-digit tackle performances in the regular season.

"He is just focused on what we are doing, every second of practice, all week long," Tiernan said. "Last year and the year before, I don't know what the word would be, he would just kind of phase out of what we are doing a little bit. ... This year, he has been tuned in from August until now, and he is a good football player."