Osborne hangs on in barnburner
By NICK McQUEEN
OSBORNE -- For the fans at Tuesday's Eight-Man Division I bi-district championship game, the matchup between unbeaten Osborne and perennial power Madison-Hamilton was a dream come true.
For two powerhouse coaches in Osborne's Steve Tiernan (formerly at Baileyville-B&B) and Madison's Fred McClain, neither opponent would have been the other's choice in a playoff opener.
Osborne, though, after a second-half defensive adjustment, was able to grab a win in a first-round marquee matchup, knocking off the visiting Bulldogs, 40-34, to advance to Saturday's second-round game against Melvern-Marais Des Cygnes Valley in Osborne.
"That was just a very good football team," Tiernan said of Madison, which ended its season at 8-2, and lost for just the fifth time in the past four seasons. "To play a team as reputable as they are in the first round would not have been my choice."
What was Tiernan's choice was to switch his defense to a four-man front after Madison had torched it for two long scoring runs in the first half. Osborne's 20 points before the break came on long-sustained drives, while Madison got quick hit after quick hit to lead 22-20 at intermission.
Madison, which has nearly perfected a quick snap at the line, scored its first two touchdowns from 65 and 55 yards out by sophomore Tylen Coe.
There would have been a third long scoring run in between by Coe, but when he broke loose for 63 yards, Osborne senior Kenton Ubelaker chased him down at the 1-yard line and forced a fumble, which Osborne recovered.
"Very good team," said Osborne senior fullback Maverick LeRock. "They gave us a run for our money. We just had to stay strong."
Osborne's two scores were a 5-yard run by Ubelaker and a 10-yard pass from sophomore Jake Tiernan to junior Brandt Wolters.
Then the teams exchanged 1-yard runs heading into the break.
Osborne, ranked No. 1 in Division I in the statewide media poll, had come into the game with a state-best 554 points, led by the three-headed monster of Jake Tiernan, Ubelaker and LeRock.
"Their fullback's speed and their tailback just gave us so much trouble," McClain said of Osborne, whose run-heavy second-half attack helped the Bulldogs take back the lead and hold on. "A lot of times they would get on the edge and we were hustling and were there, they just made some good plays.
"We hit them pretty hard, but those kids hung on to the ball."
In the third quarter, Osborne's defensive adjustments worked, aside from a few long pass plays. Madison, after busting the big first-half runs, ran just seven plays in the third quarter.
Coe had 207 rushing yards at halftime, and had just six after the break as Madison fell behind and went to the air, where Coe was still a big part of the offense.
"Our defense did really step up there," said LeRock, who recorded a pair of fourth-quarter sacks. "We had a few letdowns (in the first half) and gave up some long runs.
"It was all about just wanting to win," he added of the second-half surge. "We worked hard all year, all summer, and all-around for it. Just wanted to win."
The host Bulldogs got a pair of 1-yard runs from Ubelaker and LeRock to take a 34-22 lead as the Osborne run game was dominant. LeRock finished with 135 rushing yards and Ubelaker 132. Tiernan added 29 yards on nine touches and passed for 285 yards, most of which came in the first half. He effectively found Ubelaker over the middle as time was winding down before halftime on a hook-and-ladder play. Ubelaker tossed it to Wolters, who went 30 yards and hit the pylon but was ruled out of bounds as time expired.
"We switched the defense a little bit and kind of threw them off," coach Tiernen said. "But it also allowed that back (Coe) to get back there and fourth-down-and-forever twice."
Madison kept two fourth-quarter scoring drives alive on fourth down pass plays from junior Dustin Stutesman to Coe. The scoring plays sandwiched another LeRock run, which was enough to make up the difference. Osborne hadn't played a full four quarters since Week 1 because it won its final eight games via the 45-point mercy rule.
"We knew coming in it was going to be a tough one," LeRock said. "We were going to play four quarters no matter what -- against a good team."
Madison had the ball back with just less than 30 seconds to play, but Osborne drove them back to seal the win and move to 10-0. Marais Des Cygnes Valley (9-1) defeated South Haven 48-18 and will travel to Osborne for a 2:30 start on Saturday.