Ross is the boss

Jeff Stead/PrepsKC

By Bill Knust PrepsKC staff writer
Posted: October 7, 2016 - 10:49 PM

Staley coach Phil Lite could not hold back the smile after his team’s 28-10 victory at Kearney. He called the win a complete team effort in the postgame huddle, as his team applauded the kicking units, defensive unit and offense in succession.

Staley owned the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, especially in the second half. They held the Bulldogs to just 54 yards of total offense in the final two quarters and 181 total for the game, ending the Bulldogs’ 18-game winning streak.

They harassed Kearney quarterback Anthony Pritzel all night, sacking him six times. Three of those came from defensive end Zach Elam.

“We’ve been making strides (defensively) for the last two to three weeks,” Lite said. “Part of it is the fact that we excepted that we were going to have some growing pains. We believe in our kids. I wasn’t going to pull them. We just went back to fundamentals and believed in the process.”

Meanwhile, standout running back Julian Ross rushed for 153 yards and three touchdowns in the second half and carried it 27 times for 290 yards and four touchdowns, overall.

“Our offensive line has been the strength of our team,” Lite said. “Those front five, that is why Julian is able to do what he can. He trusts his linemen up front. I am extremely happy for them.”

After carrying it only eight times in the first half, Ross toted it 19 times in the final 24 minutes.

“I told our guys and our staff at half, ‘Julian is one guy away from breaking this game open,’” Lite said. “There were five plays that stood out where he was about to break a tackle and take it the end zone. Our formula is to get him the rock.”

Ross said he couldn’t do it alone.

“It’s a team effort,” Ross said. “We wanted to get the ball in some other people’s hands on offense, too. The plan in the second half was to get me the ball more, but more importantly, it was to win the game.”

He punched in touchdowns on three straight drives, and the Falcons put 21 unanswered points on the board to pull away from the Bulldogs. After an interception on their first drive, the Falcons moved the ball on the ground and through the air.

Ross put the Falcons up for good with a 53-yard cutback run through the Kearney defense. On the next possession, he carried it seven of the 11 plays, capping off the drive with a 5-yard score to make it 21-10 early in the fourth quarter.  His 1-yard plunge with 6 minutes, 37 seconds remaining put the game on ice.

Kearney went three and out on its first two drives of the second half and never crossed midfield until midway through the fourth quarter. Even then, they never got closer than the Falcons’ 25-yard line.

“The problem was, as you saw in the first half, too, whenever they got us off schedule we had trouble,” Kearney coach Greg Jones said. “That is what happened the whole second half. We never got on rhythm. Then we got in passing situations, they brought pressure, and we couldn’t protect it.”

The Falcons trailed 10-7 at the half, but Ross’ 82-yard touchdown run was the highlight. He took a handoff to the right cut back to the left, ran over the safety and outran the rest of the defense to the end zone.

“My coach said a lot of coaches have been wanting to see if I was a powerful runner,” Ross said. “I just want to come out every game and prove that. I want thank my guys on the offensive line for opening that hole up so I could cut it back like that.”