Osborne claims state title
By CONOR NICHOLL
NEWTON -- Osborne High School sophomore quarterback Jake Tiernan completed 7 of 9 passes for 189 yards and four TDs. He finished with a 77.5 completion rate this fall, the highest completion percentage in eight-man football history.
Senior running back Kenton Ubelaker collected 21 carries for 164 yards and a TD and caught three passes for 57 yards and two scores.
Senior fullback Maverick LeRock bowled over defenders for four total TDs. Osborne finished with 760 points, the highest eight-man scoring offense in Kansas annals.
However, it was the Bulldogs' defense that helped Osborne deliver a 56-8 blowout of Jetmore-Hodgeman County in the Eight-Man Division I state championship Saturday afternoon at Fischer Field.
"I don't know who those guys were for sure," coach Steve Tiernan said of a unit that had allowed 22.3 points per game. "They hadn't performed like that for a long time. They picked a great time to do it. We had a bend but don't break defense, but we didn't even bend today. We just got after it."
Osborne finished the season 13-0 and earned the second crown in school history, the first a 3A title in 1983. Hodgeman County went 12-1. The game ended with 7 minutes, 17 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter because of the 45-point rule.
It marked the first time an eight-man game ended early since Wallace County beat South Haven, 48-0, in 2007.
"We made it look a lot easier than what it was," Tiernan said. "Hodgeman County is a great team."
With 7 minutes, 40 seconds left in the third quarter, LeRock had a 1-yard TD run. Ubelaker's conversion pass to Alan Mick gave the Bulldogs a 36-0 lead and broke the state mark of 736 points set by Midway-Denton in 1982.
A title "means a lot more to me than that record does," Tiernan said.
Osborne, with just nine players who start, managed to stay healthy all season, enjoy a seven-win improvement and became the first eight-man team since 2000 Midway-Denton to win a title after it missed the playoffs the previous year. After three close playoff games against Madison, Marais Des Cygnes Valley, and Clifton-Clyde, Osborne led 8-0 after the first quarter and 28-0 at halftime.
"We knew coming out that we couldn't wait around and see what they had to offer," Ubelaker said. "You can't just sit back and see what they are going to give you and adjust your game from there. You've just got to come out and pound them in the mouth."
Osborne, after years of struggling in the 11-man ranks, went to eight-man four years ago under then-coach Cullen Riner, now an assistant. The seniors went 39-7 in their careers. In the postgame celebration, LeRock immediately found Riner and gave him an emotional hug.
"It's great," LeRock said. "Coach worked with us a lot. He kind of made us who we were from junior high being our weights teacher and making us work hard and Tiernan came and he made us work hard. It's just real special."
Three players, including starting junior end Brant Wolters and starting senior lineman Joel Simon, had fathers on the '83 squad. Osborne Athletic Director Doug Ubelaker was an assistant coach.
"(My dad Marty) told me that he remembers every score from every game," Wolters said. "I will never forget it. It will be something to think about it and remember for the rest of my life."
Hodgeman County went three-and-out on the game's first possession. The Longhorns finished with six three-and-outs; Coach Tiernan said it was more three-and-outs than Osborne had in his first three years combined. Hodgeman County had 188 total yards, all on the ground.
"We lined up right, and our ends, we will give them a lot of credit for this game," Ubelaker said. "Because we told them all week, we needed to pinch the holes down, so the quarterback can't run. They did that all day."
Then, Osborne went 48 yards in seven plays and Tiernan found LeRock for a 25-yard pass on a wide-open play across the middle. On the two-point conversion, Osborne ran a trick play when Ubelaker took a pitch handoff and threw to Wolters for an 8-0 lead.
Hodgeman County ran a 5-1 defense, which opened the middle, but forced smaller Osborne players to have mismatches against bigger Longhorns.
"We haven't really ran any of those plays all year, but they obviously worked," Jake Tiernan said.
Still, Osborne's line held its own and gave Tiernan time. Tiernan was never sacked.
"What probably amazed me as much as anything is the way our defense played," Coach Tiernan said. "Not to knock them down, and our offensive line - that's kind of been the question all year has been our offensive line. Once again, all year, we are outsized by a ton up front and they just managed to get the job done, backs hit the hole, completed a few passes and it went well."
After another three-and-out, Osborne moved down to the Longhorn 2, but Tiernan fumbled. Hodgeman County moved all the way to the Bulldog 5, but then junior Kolt Washburn fumbled.
"That was a big play," Tiernan said. "Brandt had a hold of him, and I came in and hit him."
Three plays later, Tiernan rolled to his right and hit LeRock on a 72-yard score for a 16-0 lead with 9:49 remaining in the half.
"They were having a lot of success even with just their basic option game," Hodgeman County coach Matt Housman said. "Once we were struggling with that, it made it very tough. Probably some of our kids were trying to do too much, and got to watching the quarterback too much and taking our eyes off the receivers."
Tiernan finished 100 of 129 for 1,590 yards with 28 scores against five interceptions this fall. His 77.5 completion rate broke the mark of 68.2 by Paxico's Dan Wagner in 1971. Osborne's team completion of 77.3 also set a state record.
"Our line is great," Jake Tiernan said. "They block their butts off the whole time. The defense can't get through. Backs are obviously good. Give us any hole at all, at least those two will be through it. Our receivers catch the ball, two or three great receivers."
Hodgeman County had another three-and-out and Osborne went 71 yards in six plays before Lerock finished with a 14-yard score. Lerock had 17 carries for 127 yards and two TDs, and caught two passes for 77 yards, both scores.
Osborne took a 28-0 lead just before halftime when Ubelaker outjumped Washburn in the end zone for a 21-yard pass. Hodgeman County's only score came on a 55-yard run from senior quarterback Alex Kreger with 61 seconds left in the third quarter, but two fourth-quarter Bulldog scores ended the contest.
"It's an awesome feeling," Lerock said. "It's amazing. I am glad that we can bring it back. We have got a great bunch of seniors. We all work hard. We all love the sport."