It’s been about 10 days since Ray-Pec quarterback Conrad Hawley gave me one of the best quotes I’ve received so far this season, and with the playoffs on the horizon, it feels like a good time to rehash it with the way the Panthers are playing.
“We went all out tonight,” Hawkley said at the time. “We’re on a revenge tour. We’re trying to get revenge on teams that beat us last year. Our focus has been ridiculous. We’re dialed in at all times.”
That was after a 35-23 win at Lee’s Summit North, the third of what has turned into four straight weeks of revenge for the Panthers.
It started with a win at Blue Springs on Oct. 4, which was followed by a shellacking of Platte County, the win over the Broncos and then a 28-21 win at Lee’s Summit West this past Friday night.
The Panthers mean business right now. They’ve probably been the most impressive team I’ve seen in person this season.
This season started in identical fashion as 2018. They went 3-2 through the first five weeks the last two years, defeating and losing to the same teams.
But last year it went downhill after a Week 5 loss to Park Hill. They lost five straight games – all by double digits but one – and finished 3-7. In 2019, it’s been a completely different story.
Crazy thing is, the recipe was there for the Panthers to trend that way again this year after a devastating loss to Park Hill. In that game, the Trojans scored on a 100-yard pick-six and a blocked punt. Instead of letting that loss spill into the next week at Blue Springs, I remember head coach Tom Kruse telling me his team had some of its best practices of the year to that point. I’d say they haven’t let up since then.
The offense has been a juggernaut the last four weeks, averaging almost 38 points per game. I can’t imagine many teams have a better one-two punch than running back Gabe Shanklin and Luke Grimm, the University of Kansas verbal commit that shines at running back, wide receiver and special teams. I came away very impressed with them both after the Blue Springs and Lee’s Summit North games. They’re both strong runners, but they’re quick, too.
Add in Hawley, who has been playing his best football of the season in recent weeks, and this is a very dangerous team heading into the playoffs.
But it won’t be easy.
The Panthers are in arguably the toughest district in the state of any class, let alone just Class 6. Of the eight teams in the district, six of them have been ranked at one point or another during the season and heading into the final week of the regular season, four teams were still ranked in the Top 10.
How loaded is this district? Ray-Pec went into the last week of the regular season as the No. 6-ranked team in Class 6. They’re only the No. 3 seed in their district.
In other words, buckle up.
The Panthers have potential matchups with Park Hill (another team want revenge on) and Liberty North in the coming weeks, but they can’t look past Lee’s Summit North, who comes knocking Friday. Even though they already got revenge on the Broncos a couple of weeks ago, this game would be revenge of sorts, too.
Last season, Ray-Pec lost to the Broncos in Week 8 and then lost to them again in the first round of the playoffs.
Will the revenge tour continue for another week?
I’m ready to find out. Let the chaos begin.