The streak is over

By Steve Bubalo PrepsKC Senior Writer
Posted: November 15, 2014 - 12:10 AM

Aaron Graham’s shoes said it all, that familiar Superman logo plastered on the back of the Oak Grove star running back’s feet.

“My nickname is SuperGraham,” Graham said with a bit of a laugh. “I saw these cleats and just loved them. I only wear them for special occasions.”

Well, it doesn’t get much more special than tonight.  

The Panthers stunned the Kansas City area and the entire state with a dominating 69-23 win over top-ranked Maryville in the Class 3 quarterfinals, the same Maryville that had won the last two state titles in Class 3 and came in sporting an impressive 42-game win streak.

But that shot at a three-peat and the win streak are over now, and this one was a no-doubter.

“This was by far the best week of practice we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Panthers head coach Pat Richard said. “Up front, all week we talked about whoever won the trenches would win the game. These are two great offenses. And we dominated inside on both sides. We ran the ball awful well. We got it done up front.”

The Panthers were a machine on offense, running through and around Maryville at will, racking up 598 yards on the ground. They had scoring runs of 52, 63, 64 and 87 yards.

Graham and Landon Cairer did a majority of the damage. Graham finished with 345 yards and seven touchdowns, while Cairer chipped in 188 yards and two scores.

“Honestly, I had no idea,” Graham said of his stat line. “The line worked so hard this week. They opened up some humongous holes.”

Added Cairer, “Our linemen did a phenomenal job tonight. We had to establish the line of scrimmage. Aaron and I saw the holes and got some big plays.”

The games biggest stretch came late in the second quarter after the Spoofhounds had scored to cut an Oak Grove lead that was 20-7 at one point down to 28-23. Maryville reached into their bag of tricks with an onside kick and recovered, giving them the ball on the Panther 43 with 4 minutes until halftime.

But in a matter of a little more than 2 minutes, the edge would go back to the Panthers.

First, the defense forced a three-and-out and the Panther offense capitalized on their first play of their ensuing drive, as Cairer went right up the middle and took off for an 87-yard touchdown and a 34-23 lead.

On Maryville’s first play of its next drive, quarterback Trey Oglesby never got control of the snap and Dalton Brinegar recovered on the Spoofhound 21.

Two plays later Graham was in the end zone again and all of a sudden it was 41-23.

“We had to make a stand and did,” Cairer said. “We’ve been doing it all year, guys stepping into roles and making plays. That fumble and then the touchdown to go up 18, that felt like a big point. If we stayed on the gas we had to put them away.”

Maryville nearly scored before the half, getting to the Oak Grove 15 before Kenton Wilhoit picked off a pass on the final play before halftime.

“We had an opportunity to keep up,” Maryville head coach Matt Webb said, whose team would go on to commit six turnovers. “Those change of plays and then before the half when we had the ball at their 15, we just couldn’t maintain it. I give a lot of credit to them.”

The Panthers had the two-time defending state champs on the ropes on their home field and they didn’t let up, pitching a 28-0 shutout in the second half. Before the third quarter came to a close, Graham added three more touchdowns, the last coming on a simple sweep play to the left side – a play that was unstoppable all game – and he bolted 64 yards untouched.

“That was the play,” Graham said. “They didn’t adjust. The line just kept dominating. … We knew they hadn’t felt the pressure of a loss in a long time. We had to take advantage of that.”

Added Richard of Graham’s final score, “On that last one, that’s the fastest I’ve seen him run.”

Jacob Pavlica, who had a big hand in the blocking at the X-back position, added the final score from 11 yards out.

Meanwhile, Maryville’s season ended with a 12-1 mark.

“We have some great senior leaders,” Webb said. “I’m proud to be their coach. I’m proud of what they’ve accomplished. They’re going to look back one day and realize how special this was.”

Oak Grove (11-2) now turns its attention toward an undefeated California team next Friday night.

But just for a moment, Graham allowed himself to enjoy this monumental win, while also looking forward to what he hopes the next couple of weeks will feel like, as they are two wins away from a state championship.

“Nothing is as good as this moment,” he said. “But two games from now I bet nothing will feel better than that.”