Panthers on the prowl

Steve Bubalo/PrepsKC

By Steve Bubalo PrepsKC Senior Writer
Posted: September 3, 2016 - 12:26 AM

The most important part of a trick play might be the timing. Sure, the execution has to be there, but if it’s not at the right time, it could all blow up. 

Ray-Pec head coach Tom Kruse was spot-on with his timing Friday night. 

Having trouble finishing off Lee’s Summit West, the Panthers head coach called for a wide receiver pass on third-and-12 from the West 49-yard line nursing a 35-28 lead with less than 2 minutes to play, and it paid off, as Keith Slider found Spencer Haake for the 49-yard score and a 42-28 lead. They would hang on for a 42-35 win. 

Run the clock out? No, thanks. 

“What I was worried about was what the free safety was going to do,” Kruse said. “I thought he’d bite on it, assuming we were going to try and run out the clock. He did. The kids executed it.”

Slider admitted to being surprised by the call at that moment, but he had a feeling it would work. 

“The cornerback was biting on that run on the jet, so we came out with the pass,” he said. 

On the other sideline, all Titans head coach Vinny Careswell could do was tip his cap. 

“That was a great call at the end. It was a great trick play,” he said. “We were thinking they were going to run the ball and run the clock out. But they got us.”

For two and a half quarters this game was all Panthers, as they ran up a 28-7 lead after a 2-yard touchdown run from Noah Durham with 4:34 left in the third quarter. 

But West’s Mario Goodrich returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown and the tide began to turn a bit. The Titans defense forced a punt and the offense found the end zone again on the first play of the fourth quarter when quarterback Cole Taylor found Zach Shanholtzer from 7 yards out to make it 28-21.  

West’s defense then got an interception but was unable to capitalize, and then with 3:53 left in the game it looked as if Ray-Pec had put the game away when Ryan Downey took a run up the middle for a 39-yard score and a 35-21 lead. 

But before the Panthers could celebrate, Taylor found Goodrich for a 57-yard score before the Panthers all but sealed the win with their trickery. 

“We were able to hang 42 on them at their place. And we had to do it,” Kruse said. 

The Panthers were able to build their lead in the first half thanks to a balanced offense and an opportunistic defense. 

The offense struck right away, as quarterback Grant Ardito found Trent Mitchell for a 67-yard passing touchdown on the second play of the game. 

Interceptions set up the next three scores for the Panthers. The first was when 5-foot-10 Andrew Houston intercepted a fade pass in the end zone to 6-foot-7 Elijah Childs. The offense went 80 yards and Durham capped the drive with a 6-yard score. Next came Nick Cook with a diving interception, which Mitchell capped with a 4-yard run to make it 21-0. 

West would score to make it 21-7 at the half, but to start the second half, Cook made another diving interception and the offense responded with a 6-minute scoring drive for the 28-7 lead. 

“We made enough plays on defense in the first half,” Kruse said. “The key piece was we came out and got a stop and a score in the second half. They put it at 21. … Nick has been so solid for us all season at free safety. And his two picks tonight were great catches. He laid out on both. Those turnovers are big in high school football.”

West was left thinking about what might have been, as they had six possessions on the 50 or in Panther territory where they came up with zero points. 

“We were seeing a trend. When you’re not capitalizing on that, you’re going to be on the wrong end of the score,” Careswell said. “You never want to get behind. We got in a hole. But the kids still battled.”

West (1-2) will look to get back in the win column next week when they travel to Lee’s Summit North, while the Panthers will look to stay undefeated (3-0) when they host Rockhurst.