Shootout in the Northland

By Bill Knust PrepsKC staff writer
Posted: September 5, 2016 - 9:37 AM

If you like offensive football games, Staley and Platte County would have thrilled you. The two teams combined for 1,082 yards of total offense and the Falcons outlasted the Pirates 55-42 at North Kansas City District Activities Complex.

The Falcons were paced on the ground by running back Julian Ross, who rushed 39 times for 246 yards and 5 touchdowns.

Staley quarterback John Raybourn rushed 14 times for 172 yards and a touchdown as well. Raybourn also completed 8 of 12 passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns.

Leading 49-42 with less than 30 seconds remaining, the Falcons faced a fourth and 12 from Platte County’s 34-yard line and Staley head coach Phil Lite decided to roll the dice. Ross made the coach look like a genius, racing around the right end for the final score of the night.

Like any good running back, Ross made sure to give the credit to the big guys up front.

“They’re big time players,” Ross said. “I couldn’t do anything without them. The o-line is everything. Those guys are some hogs. I really do appreciate those guys.”

Platte County quarterback Justin Mitchell did everything he could to keep the Pirates in the game. Three times the Falcons built 14-point leads against the Pirates, and each time the Pirates immediately responded to cut the deficit back to seven points.

Mitchell finished the night 19 of 39 for 328 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He also rushed for 76 yards on seven carries with two touchdowns, but Mitchell also lost a key fumble on fourth down from the Falcons’ 7-yard line early in the fourth quarter.

Platte County coach Bill Utz had no doubts his quarterback would respond after throwing four interceptions in a win against Oak Park last week.

“I knew that was going to happen,” Utz said. “I knew it was going to happen. He plays well in big games. That’s Justin. That’s what he brings to the table. It makes him hard to defend. I knew he was going to be ready to play.”

Staley finished with 599 yards of total offense and never trailed in the contest. Platte County did tie the game twice, including 28-28 on a Michael McNair 36-yard touchdown run with 5:25 left in the third quarter.

The Pirates finished with 483 yards of total offense. In addition to Mitchell’s excellent night, the Pirates also got 89 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries from McNair. Receiver TJ Guillory had five catches for 157 yards and a score, and receiver Jon Watts also finished with seven catches for 121 yards and a score.

The Falcons played man-to-man on the outside all night, leading to multiple big plays in the passing game from Guillory and Watts.

“I think when things are going well, our offense is tough to defend,” Utz said. “Obviously, it starts with the offensive line. We have a veteran offensive line that does a nice job with blocking and protections. … We had opportunities (deep) and some of them were really close. When they decided not to come out of their coverage, obviously we were OK with that.”

The Falcons responded by grinding out an 11-play drive, covering 68 yards. Ross covered most of those, including the final four to make it 35-28.

After Mitchell’s fumble on 4th and 1 from the Staley 7 on the ensuing possession, Raybourn extended the Falcon lead with a 72-yard scamper to make the score 42-28.

Lite said the plan was to ease Raybourn back into the season after he broke his ankle in July, but the coaching staff decided to go with the hot hand.

“Johnny had a phenomenal night in his first night back,” Lite said. “We tried to bring him back gingerly this week. Our game plan all night was to use two quarterbacks and try and bring him back slowly. But, he is just a tremendous competitor, and he gutted it up. He made some big plays for us, and sometimes you just have to go with the guy who is hot.”

In the first half it looked like the team with the ball last might be the one to win the game. The teams scored seven times in eight possessions at one point. In the second half the teams combined to score on five of six possessions.