What Steve Said: Steve Bubalo 9/8
By Steve Bubalo PrepsKC Senior Writer
Ray-Pec head coach Tom Kruse had several interesting quotes for me after last Friday night’s thrilling 42-35 at Lee’s Summit West, but one about his seniors got me thinking.
“They felt like they’ve been wanting to be a player in Class 6,” Kruse said.
This got me thinking because I always knew Ray-Pec was a Class 5 power for several years and that the same success hadn’t followed in the bump to Class 6, at least not yet, but I wasn’t sure what the numbers showed.
The Panthers were no doubt a mainstay in the Class 5 playoffs, winning state titles in 2004, 2005 and 2006. They went to the state semifinals in 2008 and were one of the final eight teams in 2009.
Since their first season in Class 6 in 2010, they’ve lost in the first round of the playoffs twice, failed to qualify once and were knocked out after one win three times. Overall, in the regular season, they’ve had a 34-30 record.
This isn’t to suggest the Panthers have been some sort of push-over in Class 6. If anything, it goes to show how hard it is to win at the highest level. Traditionally, Rockhurst, Blue Springs South and Blue Springs have always dominated football on the Kansas City side in Class 6.
Ray-Pec is hoping they can crash the party this season, and three games into the season, they pretty darn good, with the win over the Titans being the biggest showcase thus far.
The Titans came in ranked No. 7, and were a missed extra point last week from taking No. 2 Blue Springs to overtime. But the Panthers came out from the start ready to send a message, going ahead 28-7 in the third quarter before withstanding a rally and hanging on for the win.
Kruse described it as “a great team win,” which was a spot-on description. The offense used had success in the run game and through the air, they had big plays and they had long, time-consuming drives. The defense started to wilt a little in the last 15 minutes or so, but before that they held an explosive offense in check thanks to three interceptions.
Kruse had rave reviews for the secondary before the season and they didn’t disappoint during some big moments. He also talked about the ability of the offensive line to be a reliable foundation on the offensive side of the ball as they broke in some new skill position players.
Quarterback Grant Ardito did some damage with his arm and his legs. Noah Durham led the charge on the ground, with fullback Ryan Downey also getting some huge yards late in the game, especially a 39-yard score. Trent Mitchell did a little bit of everything, scoring a touchdown in the passing game and the run game, while Keith Slider and Spencer Haake also made plays in the pass game.
Over the season the offense should only get better, continuing to develop a rapport and defining roles. The defense returned seven starters, so they’ve already got experience.
The hard part, as always, is the schedule.
The Usual Suspects are there - Blue Springs, Blue Springs South, Rockhurst, plus a Lee’s Summit team that is 2-1 with an impressive win over Park Hill a couple of weeks ago.
Week-to-week, there’s never a break. Case in point, the Hawklets come calling this Friday.
After beating the Titans, Kruse talked about how to be a player in Class 6, you’ve got to win tough games on the road. Well, in all honesty, the same could be said for tough games at home.
What’s that saying? To be the best, you have to beat the best?
“Yeah, they’ve been overlooking us. They’re sleeping on us,” Slider said of teams after the win over the Titans.
At this rate, not for much longer.
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