Prep Football

After 1,565 yards rushing and 28 TDs, Osborn wants to do even more

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Aug. 12, 2018 12:01 am Updated: Aug. 12, 2018 12:25 am

MONROE CITY, Mo. -- A state championship and all-state accolades last fall don't seem to impress Zach Osborn.

Somehow, he wants to be even better during his senior season for the Monroe City football team.

"I need to step up this year," Osborn said. "I need to show people what I can do."

What he's done so far has been very impressive, but being the Panthers' most versatile player can help him accomplish his goal.

Osborn was part of a 1-2 punch in Monroe City's backfield alongside fullback Cole Pennewell that helped lead the Panthers to a 15-0 season and a Class 1 state title, the third in program history.

Osborn rushed for 1,565 yards with 21 touchdowns, caught three touchdown passes and took four of his seven punt returns to the end zone. Pennewell, named the Clarence Cannon Conference Offensive Player of the Year, ran for 1,596 yards with 23 touchdowns on 250 carries.

Monroe City coach David Kirby expects more of the same this year from Osborn.

"If he can just continue what he's done the last couple years ... I mean, he ran for almost 1,000 yards as a sophomore," Kirby said. "He's going to go out and do his things. But if people are keying on him, it just opens things up for someone else, and he'll carry out great fakes and blocks."

Osborn knew his role in the offense last year was to let Pennewell dictate the run game as fierce fullback who hit the holes between the tackles. That opened up things for Osborn, and he took advantage.

The bulk of the load should be going to Osborn this year as the most experienced back that returns for Monroe City. The senior, listed at 5-foot-9, 145 pounds, plans to make the most of every carry he gets.

"I just need to dominate the field," Osborn said. "I've got to do that every night."

He also knows he will become the focal point of opponent's defensive plans.

"I know teams will target me a little more," Osborn said. "We don't have that fullback like Cole or (Logan Minter) this year."

The Panthers, however, may have one fullback on the cusp of blooming.

Pennewell battled an illness during the district rounds of the postseason, so junior Keenan Batsell took over. Batsell ran for 122 yards on 15 carries, including a 56-yard touchdown run, in a 56-26 victory over South Shelby in the district title game. He also had a 17-yard touchdown run in the second quarter in the 28-14 victory over East Buchanan in the state semifinals.

Those glimpses of success have given confidence to Osborn and the Monroe City coaching staff they have a potential replacement. Kirby also expects Nolan Pennewell and Damian Holland to be in the mix at fullback this season.

"(Batsell) is going to be a phenomenal player this year," Osborn said. "I'll just do what I can do, Keenan will do what he can do. We even have guys like Gage Bottoms, too."

Monroe City returns third-year starter Blake Hays at quarterback. The offensive and defensive lines are anchored by all-state picks Jon Saxbury and Max Hays.

That has the Panthers shaping up for another deep postseason run.