By CONOR NICHOLL
Matt Fowler had a highly successful run at Spearville, including an undefeated state championship season. Fowler came to Oswego, which was closer to family. Oswego had five total wins in the previous three years and was going to switch to eight-man football.
Fowler went to the 2018 Oswego school orientation when the ’21 seniors were freshmen. He wanted to talk to anyone who wasn’t planning on playing football. At that point, a trio of freshmen, Jace Landes, Blake Wolf and Jesse Blumer, were not planning on football.
Fowler talked to Landes and told him he would have the “best job on the team” as a freshman. If Oswego had a big lead, Landes would go in.
“He would be the guy that would get to go in and finish the game off, and score the last touchdown,” Fowler said.
In 2018, Oswego opened with a 54-14 win against Chetopa in the Bloody Bucket rivalry. At the end of the game, Landes entered and his first carry was a long touchdown run.
Landes has since played in many roles for Oswego, including wingback in the Indians’ single wing offense. Oswego has posted 6-3, 6-3 and 8-2 marks in Fowler’s first three seasons. Last fall marked Oswego’s most wins since ’09. He transitioned to tailback for this fall. Fowler, known for perpetually exuding positivity, called his seniors “great leaders.” Senior Chance Thomas is a first-year player.
Blumer, a senior tight end, is an excellent blocker. Wolf has 10 tackles after 13 total in this first three years.
“It’s been a joy to be around these kids,” Fowler said.
This season, Oswego has encountered several obstacles en route to its first on-field win.
Oswego earned a Week 1 forfeit victory against Chetopa. In Week 2, Oswego lost, 68-66, to St. Paul in a wild game. SP won on the game’s last play. Last week, Oswego picked up its first on-field win with a 49-0 road victory against Altoona-Midway.
This week, Oswego is at Yates Center, off to its first 3-0 start since 1969.
In the preseason, Oswego fought through some COVID-19 quarantine with the Hutchinson brothers: junior Jake and freshman Josh. Oswego has 25 players out. Aug. 31 marked the first time the Indians had at least 24 at practice. Oswego has plenty of depth with nine freshmen. Fowler called the quarantine situation “unfortunate” and said it happened before school started.
“You have some things to battle through, players being quarantined and stuff like that sometimes,” Fowler said in preseason. “We have been hit by a little bit of that. We have had some guys there and some guys missing and stuff like that here and there.”
Fowler scheduled a Saturday practice so the Hutchinsons could play in Week 2 against St. Paul. Some other teams, notably Burlingame, Wellington and K.C. Schlagle, fought quarantine issues and were unable to play Week 1.
“It’s hard when you have anybody that has to go through that, that was healthy,” Fowler said. “…It’s pretty tough when you go through your whole preseason camp and jamboree and stuff and you have some kids that don’t even get to be any part of that.”
Against Altoona-Midway, junior Levi George passed for 117 yards and three touchdowns. Landes has eight carries for 168 yards and two scores and continued his explosive career that started as a freshman. Overall, Landes has 113 carries for 1,305 yards (11.5 yards per carry) and 21 rushing scores. Landes has 29 carries for 398 yards and six TDs this season.
“His ability to make an explosive play with his feet is a great thing for us,” Fowler said.
Last season, Isaac Elliott tore his ACL in the season opener versus Chetopa. Hutchinson had to step up as the leading ball carrier and finished with 103 carries for 913 yards and 11 TDs. Against St. Paul this year, Hutchinson delivered 21 carries for 165 yards and four scores. Fowler called Hutchinson a “power back” last season and developed athletically for this year.
“Much improved,” Fowler said.
It’s unlikely that Oswego will continue to play Chetopa and Altoona-Midway after this year. Both teams are expected to move down to six-man football, which KSHSAA sanctioned last week.
Chetopa and Oswego’s Bloody Bucket has one of the state’s most well-known rivalries. Chetopa and Oswego are only eight miles apart. A lot of family are on both sides. Even one assistant on Chetopa and Oswego are cousins.
Fowler talks to his sixth grade P.E. class on the Bloody Bucket rivalry.
“I try to educate them,” he said.
He takes them to the Oswego trophy case, turns the light on and shows them what the bucket is. The scores of each game are carved into wood. When Chetopa first went to eight-man, the original bucket was cut in half. A half was given to each school. When the new games started in 2018, Oswego’s shop class made a new bucket. The scores from the last three years are carved in the wood.