By MIKE MOGUIN
GTR Sports Writer
Gage Laney is just one of many reasons why Owasso is unbeaten and No. 1 in the state as the 2020 football season draws closer to the playoffs.
The senior safety had a big performance when he made three interceptions in the District 6AI-2 opener Sept. 25 at home against Union. On one of those picks, he took it back 67-yards for a touchdown, which increased the Rams’ lead to 14-0 against the Redskins. Owasso went on to win that game 34-14.
“The key to having that type of game was the pressure that was put on the quarterback by the (defensive) line and linebackers,” Laney said. “Without pressure (the quarterback) could sit back and throw the ball everywhere. With pressure, it hurries him to throw to his offensive receivers, and he picks the first one he sees. It’s been a big help on my part on finishing the play they (the d-line) started.
Laney agrees that it is his most memorable game so far this year (with three games remaining in the regular season at the time of publication)
“It was one of my biggest returns this year and especially against Union, with the powerhouse Union is. It was probably one of my biggest moments of this year,” he said.
Laney has proven to be a versatile asset for the Rams. He also serves duties as a return man on kickoffs, punts, plays the role of deep-snapper on punts and is the holder on field goal and extra point attempts.
“I’ve been holding since third grade. This year is actually my first year deep snapping,” Laney said.
That may look like a lot of work, but Laney has experience at it.
“I enjoy it,” he said. “Because growing up, I’ve done everything. I’ve played linebacker, safety, running back, wide receiver and I used to play quarterback a little bit. I just basically did the whole thing on my team. Going through life, it really hasn’t bothered me in doing all types of different things.”
Laney began playing the game at age three with his older brother, who was six at the time. He started playing organized football when he was in first grade.
While playing both ways growing up, Laney fell in love with defense and went there exclusively his freshman year, when Owasso won its first of two state titles in the past three seasons. He said, “Playing alongside the likes of Wayne Jones and Josh Proctor made me fall in love with playing safety.”
Those guys are now playing respectively at Kansas State and Ohio State. Laney has watched some of their games.
The brotherhood that you get with all your teammates in football is what Laney likes most about the game. As for playing safety, “it is just a different feeling, because you don’t necessarily have a lot of man coverage, you’re just in a zone basically just reading the offense,” he said.
Harrison Smith of the Minnesota Vikings is his favorite NFL safety.
“I like watching how he plays. (Smith) suits who I want to be, because he is kind of a float-around safety and kind of has the same style as me,” Laney said.
Since Bill Blankenship arrived as coach, Laney said it’s been like a life-changing experience for the program.
“I was going to transfer to Collinsville, but coach Blankenship came in and I decided to stay here. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done,” he said.
Defending the state title has been difficult for the Rams, “because every game we got to play our best. Because we’re the defending state champions, everybody is going to give us their best shot, so we got to play our football and go hard every day,” Laney said.
To repeat as Class 6AI state champions and pick up a third in four years, the Rams must keep playing with a lot of determination.
“We just got to be ourselves every game,” Laney said. “We just got to control what we can do. It’s been weird times with the season going through COVID and stuff. The best thing we can do this year is do what we do.”
Owasso concludes the regular season Nov. 6 at home against Putnam City.