OSAGE BEACH — A Brock McLaughlin-led offensive attack has proven to be one of the area's most exciting for School of the Osage.
That is when the Indians hold on to the football, which they didn't do a good job of last week.
Thus, one of the keys for Osage in tonight's Tri-County Conference clash with Hallsville will be limiting the turnovers. Osage travels to Hallsville tonight in a battle of Indians. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
Osage comes in with a 2-2 overall record and a 1-1 league mark. A week ago, Osage committed a whopping six turnovers in dropping a 43-13 league decision to California.
Hallsville is 2-2 and, due to COVID-19 cancellations, reaches the midway point of the regular season playing its Tri-County opener tonight.
The past two weeks, Hallsville lost canceled conference games against Versailles and Eldon. In their place, Hallsville picked up a Sept. 11 game against Palmyra, which the Indians lost 51-16, and last week against Putnam County, which the Indians won 46-0.
Two weeks ago, Hallsville found out Thursday evening its game the next night against Versailles was being called off. And as school was to end Friday, Sept. 11, Hallsville coach Justin Conyers got a call from Palmyra at 2:30 p.m., confirming it would indeed play later that evening.
"We were on the bus at 3:30 with no game plan; just a chance to play," Conyers said.
Hallsville got much more notice for the Putnam County contest — it was finalized the Sunday evening of game week.
So Conyers and Hallsville are glad to get back into a routine and finally play a conference opponent, even if it's against a foe with explosive potential.
"Not having a conference game yet stinks," Conyers said. "To be able to get back in and have a conference game is very exciting for the program."
Hallsville finished 10-3 overall and was second in the Tri-County race at 6-1 in 2019. Hallsville's only losses last season were to Class 2 state runner-up Ava, Tri-County power Blair Oaks and Class 2 semifinalist Clark County.
Last season, Hallsville shut out Osage 47-0.
"They graduated a good senior class," Osage coach Devin Johnson said of Hallsville. "They're younger this year, with three sophomores on the offensive line. Their young but still have good athletes and are coached well."
Hallsville's attack still gives Johnson cause for concern.
Hallsville's balanced offense has produced 1,530 yards four games in, with 947 yards rushing.
Like Osage, Hallsville boasts a dangerous, dual-threat quarterback in junior Tyger Cobb. Cobb has completed 40-of-70 passes for 583 yards and six touchdowns while rushing 45 times for 386 yards and three more TDs.
Harrison Fowler leads the Hallsville ground game with 419 yards on 57 carries and seven touchdowns.
A.J. Austene has caught 11 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns, while Ryan Roberts has 13 catches for 106 yards and a TD and Fowler four grabs for 129 yards and two TDs.
The Hallsville defense is led by the linebacker trio of Trenton Hobb, Colton Hobb and Alex White.
"They're about 50-50 run and pass," Johnson said. "They're pretty even. Defensively they run a four-man to three-man (front), depending on the offense. They are able to use their speed to get to the ball. We've got to be patient offensively."
Last week, Osage had flashbacks of the past two years, when turnovers helped wreck its seasons.
"It was the story of the game," Johnson said of last week's loss of California. "We scored 13 points and didn't punt once. We just turned it over. You give a team six extra possessions you can't do that. And three times we had it inside their 10 and didn't score."
The Osage offense produced 382 yards on 39 plays a week ago.
"We've just got to take care of the ball," Johnson said.
McLaughlin, a junior quarterback, keys the Osage attack, having completed 38-of-53 passes for 494 yards, three interceptions and four touchdowns while rushing for 595 yards on 46 carries (12.9 yards per carry) and six touchdowns.
Also for Osage, senior fullback Jack Creasy has 267 yards on 28 carries (9.5 average) and four touchdowns and senior tailback Kenan Webb has 246 rushing yards on 41 carries and three TDs.
Sophomore wideout Hunter Graber has 15 receptions for 217 yards and four touchdowns, while Webb nine catches for 91 yards out of the backfield.
Sophomore linebacker Eric Hood paces the Osage defense with 40 tackles, while sophomore safety Konner Vaughn has 35 tackles.
"What we see on film is a quarterback who is electric," Conyers said of McLaughlin. "He makes people miss. I call him Coby Williams-like, of Versailles last year, in his ability to move the pocket. He's a plus with his arm and feet. And they are one of the bigger teams we'll see. They are very athletic, especially the skill guys."