8-man playoffs -- Osborne faces another tough test
By NICK McQUEEN
On the plus side, the Osborne High School football team just beat the only team to knock off its upcoming opponent in the Eight-Man Division I state playoffs.
The downside is it took the hardest-fought game the Bulldogs played all season to knock off perennial contender Madison-Hamilton on Tuesday night.
Now, the Bulldogs (10-0) face an equally tough test in Melvern-Marais Des Cygne Valley (9-1). Game time is 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Osborne.
"They're good," said Osborne coach Steve Tiernan. "They played (Madison) pretty tight. Everyone at this stage is good. You just have to strap them on and go play."
Osborne, in the win Tuesday, played its first full game since the season opener. In its previous eight contests heading into the playoffs, Osborne had ended the game via the 45-point mercy rule. Equally, Marais Des Cygnes hasn't been challenged since the Week 2 loss to Madison, including Tuesday's 48-18 win against South Haven. Since the loss, the Trojans have outscored opponents 464-90.
Saturday's game will pit the top two scoring offenses against each other. Osborne, ranked No. 1 in the statewide media poll, leads Division I with 594 points while Marais Des Cygnes is second at 540. The Trojans hold the edge defensively having only given up 126 points (third in Division I), while Osborne has surrendered 182.
Longtime Madison coach Fred McClain, who guided his Bulldogs to state titles in 2010 and 2011 and a sub-state runner-up finish last season, said Saturdays' matchup will be intriguing.
Madison defeated Marais Des Cygnes by 14 in a game that was tied heading into the fourth quarter in Week 2. Tuesday, his club had a 22-20 lead at halftime, only to see Osborne's running back duo of seniors Maverick LeRock and Kenton Ubelaker take over.
"It will be interesting for them," McClain said. "Their quarterback is good. Their tailback, fullback, the receiver -- they keep you hopping."
After Tuesday's win, Ubelaker has rushed for 1,155 yards and 21 touchdowns on 120 carries, while LeRock has 107 touches for 983 yards and 20 scores.
"We work hard on offense," said LeRock, who also has four sacks. "When we really get things clicking we can be pretty good."
Both have been big targets in the passing game from sophomore quarterback Jake Tiernan as well.
"All those seniors, it means so much to them," coach Tiernan said. "They fight their tails off and just play hard.
"They didn't want to end the season, so they fought hard," he added of Osborne's win.
The hook up between Jake Tiernan and junior receiver Brandt Wolters is a big boost as well. Even in Tuesday's wet, cold conditions, Wolters was a big playmaker in the first half. For the season, Wolters has a team-best 30 catches for 537 yards and 11 scores.
LeRock and Ubelaker (mostly on screens) have a combined 41 cathces for 619 yards and seven scores.
"He has a lot of guys to throw to and the line gives him a great deal of time to do it," coach Tiernan said of his son. "It's a team effort."
Jake Tiernan still has more touchdowns than incompletions. He is 71 of 88 for 1,183 yards with 20 TDs to just four interceptions, a remarkeable ratio the coach credits to the QB's game knowledge.
"The guy has been around the game so long, that when I say read the linebacker, he knows exactly what I'm talking about to where he'll go do what he's supposed to do," Coach Tiernan said.
At 6-foot, 190 pounds, Wolters averages 17.90 yards per catch. That included 108 receiving yards and a score on six catches -- mostly in the first half -- on Tuesday.
"He's done a lot of great things," Coach Tiernan said. "He's a great football player. On a night like (Tuesday), it's not real ideal for throwing the ball."