What Steve said: Steve Bubalo 11/20

Steve Bubalo

By Steve Bubalo PrepsKC Senior Writer
Posted: November 21, 2014 - 9:44 AM

Second chances can be a beautiful thing.

Just ask the Oak Grove football team.

Panther head coach Pat Richard himself brought up the issue after last Friday night’s historic 69-23 trouncing of two-time defending state champion Maryville.

Put rather bluntly, Richard felt his team was lucky to even be playing against the Spoofhounds with a chance to snap their 42-game win streak.

“We played the Hogan Prep game without Aaron (Graham), and we had no business winning,” Richard said. “That was like a gift. You rarely get a second chance.”

But the Panthers have, and they’ve made the most of it and appear to be the hottest team in the Class 3 playoffs.

The game Richard alluded to was a 47-46 win over Hogan Prep in the district semifinals on Oct. 31. Without their star running back, the Panthers squeaked past the previously unbeaten Rams. Scott Jones kicked a 45-yard field goal – a rarity in the high school game from that distance – late in the game for the win.

That new life seems to be all the Panthers needed to gain a little momentum, as they have crushed two of the better teams in Class 3 the last two weeks.

First, they avenged an early-season loss to O’Hara with a convincing 63-35 win before shaking up the Class 3 playoffs with their takedown of Maryville.

Watching what the Panthers did to Spoofhounds last Friday night was like watching a well-oiled machine.

The Panthers weren’t messing around. They know what they do well – run the ball – and they didn’t deviate from that plan all night long, as quarterback Austin Blackston threw just one pass the entire game.

That rushing attack, with its deception as to who will get the ball on each snap, has caused problems for defenses all season, but especially as of late.

Since a 34-30 loss to Harrisonville, the Panthers are averaging 59 points per game in their last six games, just an absurd number.

Are they the hottest team left in Class 3? It seems a little crazy to say one of four teams left in the playoffs is hotter than the others, especially when one of those teams – California High School, Oak Grove’s opponent this Friday night – is 13-0 and was ranked No. 2 in the final state rankings.

In fact, all three other teams left in Class 3 finished the season ranked higher than the Panthers. John Burroughs was fourth and Monett was ninth, while the Panthers were No. 10.

But when you consider who the Panthers have defeated the last three weeks (Maryville was No. 1, O’Hara No. 6), I’m not sure you would want to bet against them. The Rams, Celtics and Spoofhounds had a combined record of 32-1 prior to facing the Panthers.

This is the beauty of high school football. You never know what is going to happen. Last week proved that.

If the same team that I watched against Maryville shows up with that intensity and determination, they aren’t going to be stopped.

Sometimes all a team needs is a second chance.