Chris Osborn didn’t feel like he was about to have a career night.
A general sensation of weakness had the Sidney senior eating a sandwich and downing a Gatorade during warmups before his football team played at Nishnabotna on Aug. 30. He was getting chills and goose bumps despite on-field temperatures approaching triple digits.
“The first half I had like eight yards because I was still feeling down,” Osborn said. “But after halftime I was pretty pumped.”
Even while dealing with a debilitating stomach virus, Osborn ran for 200 yards and three touchdowns on just seven carries and added two catches for 65 yards in the Cowboys’ 56-18 win. Twice in the following three days, he made trips to the hospital for IVs and precautionary tests.
It’s as close as Osborn has come to being stopped on a football field this fall.
The featured running back has accumulated 562 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on 35 attempts while helping Eight-Man No. 10 Sidney (4-0) to a strong start. His eye-popping per-carry average of 16.1 yards is the highest of any back in the state with that many touches.
“He’s our home-run threat and the kind of kid you want to touch the ball often,” Sidney coach Donnie Sears said. “If we were to hand Chris the ball 20 times, his numbers would be, I think, outrageous.
“What you’re seeing right now is not necessarily a fluke — he’s pretty good.”
As it stands, illness or lopsided games have limited Osborn’s opportunities. His most came during a 30-26 win over Southwest Valley in a pivotal District 8 clash Sept. 6. He carried the ball 13 times for 109 yards and a touchdown.
Osborn would have had more chances, Sears said, had he not lost 10 pounds that week while recovering from his stomach ailment.
“I didn’t really see all this coming,” Osborn said. “But my blockers have stepped up every game and opened holes up.”
An entirely new starting offensive line including Jacob Buck, Drake Strickler, Brett Horrach and Emmett Gilson has been a pleasant surprise for the Cowboys. Each member weighs about 180 pounds and can play linebacker defensively. That means they can often run alongside Osborn as he slashes all over the field.
“Every time he touches the ball he doesn’t go 16.1 (yards),” Sears said. “But there’s a chance, and that’s what’s exciting.”
Osborn’s playmaking abilities aren’t a total shock. He was a featured back at Nishnabotna as a sophomore (384 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 69 tries) before transferring to Sidney.
With the Cowboys, he racked up 72 yards on only three carries last year while waiting behind a deep senior class and recovering from a groin injury. His 137 receiving yards set a single-game school record in Sidney’s playoff loss to Glidden-Ralston.
So far this fall, Osborn has five catches for 99 yards (19.8 per-catch average) and a score. He also runs Sidney’s occasional “Wildcat” package, starts at safety on defense and goes back for kickoffs and punts.
The team co-captain participates in basketball, track and baseball throughout the year. He went to the Class 1-A state track meet in the 1,600 relay and 1,600 medley relay last spring before earning first-team all-Corner Conference baseball honors.
Despite the success, Osborn hasn’t let anything go to his head. Instead he continues to make the 10-minute daily commute from his home in Hamburg for 5 a.m. weightlifting sessions. The result has been about 15 added pounds of muscle, which have helped him become a more powerful and durable runner.
“(The carries) don’t really matter to me as long as we win,” Osborn said. “I’m not out there to be the show.”