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Game of the Week -- Potent offense in Osborne

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

OSBORNE - On Monday, the Osborne High School varsity practiced until 4:30 p.m. The Bulldogs spent most of practice on offense, an area coach Steve Tiernan often focuses on for the week's first session.

The Bulldogs ran through multiple formations and plays, including outside and midline option and short, intermediate and deep passes. Tiernan estimated he had eight or nine different formations.

"We run a lot of offensive practice," senior fullback Maverick LeRock said. "We work on defense, too, but our practice, probably two out of every three sessions of offense."

Tiernan played scout team defender at the position that the offense was supposed to read, normally linebacker or defensive end.

He paid strict attention to detail, including the exact yards a receiver needed to run. If end blocking was sluggish, Tiernan had the team repeat the drill and emphasized those were the blocks that scored "the easy touchdowns."

At the end of practice, Tiernan used a drill few coaches have during the season. Each player ran through the chute to practice staying low on blocks.

After the chute drill, Tiernan had his players take a knee. The varsity had just eight players with the rest of the Bulldogs at a junior varsity game.

However, Osborne trumps the lack of depth with preparation, focus on fundamentals and a speedy, high-flying, veteran group paced by LeRock, senior running back Kenton Ubelaker, sophomore quarterback Jake Tiernan and a strong offensive line.

"Each week, it takes less and less time to prepare, because we've already kind of got everything in," coach Tiernan said.

"Knowledge-wise, we are well ahead of what we have been."

Osborne, 2-0 and ranked No. 2 in Eight-Man, Division I in the statewide media poll, again has one of Kansas' top offenses for the fourth straight season.

The Bulldogs have outscored opponents 128-56. Only Class 4A Coffeyville (131) has scored more points in Kansas, according to preppowerindex.com.

"Just their team speed kind of reminds me a lot of (state champion) Ness City last year, they are just so fast and they get off the line so well," Downs-Lakeside coach Kody Tegtmeier said. "It definitely helps when you have got kids that are that quick."

Tiernan, 108-19 in his career and 18-5 at Osborne, called the 2013 team probably as well-rounded as any squad in his tenure.

"In terms of being able to catch the ball, throw the ball and run the ball, finally, we just kind of got everybody on the same page," Tiernan said. "I will never point out a name, but it just always seemed like somewhere we had a weak link. Something you kind of had to cover up offensively, whether it would be a guard, an end, a back, a quarterback, a receiver, whatever it might be. This year, they are all capable of making plays."

In 2010, the Bulldogs tallied 580 points in a 10-2 year, the program's first season of eight-man and Osborne's best record in decades.

In 2011, Osborne again went 10-2, scored 658 points and Damon Schurr set the eight-man record for single season touchdowns. Last season, the Bulldogs went 6-3 and scored 424 points. Only Madison has scored more points in that time in Eight-Man, Division I.

This season, the Bulldogs returned all of its skill players and has a much stronger and healthier line with seniors Joel Simon and Collin Berkley at guards and junior Shane Hendrickson at center. Simon missed all of last season with a knee injury and Berkley has missed most of the past two seasons with injuries. Junior Brandt Wolters and senior Alan Mick have played well at end, too.

"Our line has got a ton better from this year since last year," Jake Tiernan said. "You can tell that we have done good work this summer and put in the time. You can tell that we have been improving."

Tiernan, the coach's son, and Ubelaker, son of Ken Ubelaker, a longtime Osborne coach and current football assistant/head track coach, lead Kansas in at least one statistic. Tiernan started as a freshman and is 14 of 14 for 319 yards with a 6/0 TD/INT ratio. He paces the state in completion percentage and passer rating.

"He is a good athlete," LeRock said. "He is going to improve. By the time he is a senior, he is going to be a heck of a quarterback."

Among KSHSAA players, Ubelaker ranks first with nine touchdowns and second with 254 return yards.

"Ubelaker is ridiculously fast for the eight-man game," Tegtmeier said.

The area's current career leader with 3,479 all-purpose yards, Ubelaker has 558 all-purpose yards this season.

"My line gives me holes to read," Ubelaker said. "That is probably the easiest part of it. He gives me great balls to catch. It's all pretty easy, because they do all the work. I just have got to catch the ball and find the holes."

Tiernan and Ubelaker each grew up around sports, but in different ways. Tiernan is the oldest of three kids. His sister plays Osborne volleyball and they have a three-year-old brother. Before Osborne, Steve Tiernan built Baileyville B&B into an historical powerhouse. Everyday after school, Jake Tiernan came to practice and served as manager.

"It's not bad," Tiernan said. "Most people know my dad and they are like, 'Hey, you are Coach Tiernan's son.' Usually, when we get home, we usually don't even talk about football. I don't mind it."

Last season, Jake was the best option for quarterback to replace all-state performer Ethan Slothower. Ubelaker was the other choice, but the offense worked best with him at running back and catching passes.

Jake started slowly, but finished with 1,190 yards and a 17/6 TD/INT ratio. From Week 3 to Week 7, he threw 13 TDs and no interceptions. This season, Tiernan threw for 104 yards in the first week and 215 last Friday.

"He is surrounded by guys that have gotten better," Coach Tiernan said. "We had a great offseason. Guys got in the weight room and really believed in what we are doing and worked hard, ran hard, lifted a lot."

Ubelaker is the younger brother of Brooke and Karie Ubelaker, who starred on Osborne's outstanding run in basketball and track in the late '90s and early 2000s. Brooke was an All-American at Washburn University and Karie was all-conference at Sterling College. Brooke finished as one of the state's top-10 scorers en route to multiple titles. Kenton and the Bulldogs could ride another great offensive season to a deep playoff run, too.

"There is a lot of pressure to play basketball, that is for sure, but I have never really got into that," Kenton said. "Going to all those games, it was fun, state championships and all that. But it was crazy - that is probably the best word to describe it. You come in here and everybody would be watching the girls play.

"Just the amount of support that they had, it was just crazy, and that's what we want too," he added. "When we went eight-man, we wanted to turn this thing around and have the same thing that they had during basketball for football."