Ozark’s football team had its season hanging in the balance last Saturday at Lee’s Summit West. The Tigers had squandered a 19-0 lead and trailed 23-19 with 2:30 left in the game and 80 yards of turf between them and an extension to their season.
Many football teams and players would have been rattled to point of panic, but not Ozark with senior David Salazar at the helm.
"He doesn't get rattled too easy. That is his composure and it is in his DNA," Ozark head coach Mark Bliss said. "The kids believe in him and he believes in his abilities."
Never mind that this is just Salazar’s second season playing quarterback since he was a young kid, Salazar had one thought in mind when taking the field for that final drive.
"When I came out there I tried not to make it a bigger deal than what it really was. It is a big deal, but don't try to get too hyped about it and make a mistake and cost the team the game," Salazar said. "We just went out there and relaxed and did what we usually do and scored the touchdown."
Ozark capped off the drive with a Salazar pitch to Cody Lindsay for a touchdown. It is only fitting on this team that the two seniors were the key components on the final drive that could have ended many Ozark high school careers if it failed.
"Our kids have been together since second grade. A lot of these kids have been together since kindergarten. This is a senior class that has grown up around each other their whole lives. I think the other day the reality sort of set in at the Lee's Summit West game that it could be over; It could be done," Bliss said. "Those kids found a way to compose themselves and they went out and found a way to win for each other."
That brotherhood has carried the Tigers to this point.
"All the seniors are all brothers and we hang out all the time," Salazar said. "We know how much it means to us if we win it all. We have talked about it since junior high and it is just a great feeling to know that we are doing what we have talked about since seventh grade."
Ozark still stands a chance to accomplish the long discussed goal thanks to a quarterback that Bliss calls one of the best he has coached.
"In the 24 years I have coached he is one of the top two or three quarterbacks I have had and you are talking about teams that I have had that have been blessed to win a lot of state championships," Bliss said. "He is one of those guys that just comes out and does his thing. A lot of it isn't coached. A lot of it is just what God has given the young man. He takes the concepts that we coach and teach him up on and applies them on the field. If those plays ever break down he has the knack and capability to make something happen."
Salazar and the Tigers will try and keep their magical season alive when they travel to Fort Osage on Friday for the Class 5 Semifinal game. A win there will put the Tigers exactly where they want to be over the Thanksgiving weekend.
"We want to win it all,” Salazar said. “We want to go eat turkey in the Dome.”