Staley blanks Liberty in district title game
By Marc Bowman PrepsKC staff writer
The Staley Falcons gradually gained momentum before steamrolling the Liberty Blue Jays, 36-0, at the North Kansas City District Athletic Complex.
Senior captain Julian Ross rumbled for four touchdowns to lead the Falcons to their first District 8 championship since 2012.
Ross rushed for 207 yards, including five gains of at least 20 yards. His 22-yard touchdown run up the middle gave Staley (9-2) a 16-0 lead with 5:02 left in the first half.
“As soon as my ‘Hoggies’ opened it up, I took advantage of what they gave me,” he said. “I’m super thankful to those guys.”
Ross overcame a dislocated shoulder from the previous week’s 25-14 win over Liberty North.
“He had a dinged up shoulder,” Falcons coach Phil Lite said. “He did a great job of managing through it all game. He did a great job to overcome. He’s special and I’m very proud of him because he really gutted up tonight to play with that.”
The Falcons put the game away with two quick scores opening the second half. On the third play from scrimmage, Ross went 63 yards off tackle for a 23-0 lead less than a minute into the half.
After a successful onside kick, Ross scored again seven plays later to put Staley ahead 30-0 with 8:12 remaining in the third quarter.
“That’s huge,” Lite said. ”That’s what we said; we had to come out and score early in that first possession or that second possession. We wanted to get on the board really quick.”
Two possessions later, Ross capped the scoring with a four-yard touchdown run one play after going 50 yards down the right side line.
“I wanted that one bad,” he said. “My goal is to never get caught from behind and he got me. I’m glad we came back and got the touchdown.”
“He’s pretty special,” Lite said. “He’s very good. You know, we just wanted to use him tonight kind of as a decoy and take advantage of some of the things we saw on their defense. Everybody keys him, so we were trying to use him to open up some other players in our passing game and our run game. Tonight we did a few things we hadn’t shown them.”
Liberty (7-4) had an opportunity to draw first blood. After the opening kickoff, their 10-play drive stalled at the Staley six-yard line, but sophomore Drew Mackie missed a 29-yard field goal.
Staley responded with their own field goal, a 31-yarder by senior Landon Rupp, which gave the Falcons a 3-0 lead at 7:22 in the opening period.
The Staley defense took over from there, forcing a three-and-out punt which senior Rod Criss II returned 49 yards to the Blue Jays 11.
“We just felt like our defense had them locked in tonight and we had some great performances out here, getting pressure on the quarterback,” Lite said. “We had seen teams struggle getting pressure on their quarterback. You know, they’re big up front. They do an excellent job. Coach Frigon and staff, they’ve done a wonderful job over there this year. They’re much better and a much improved football team from what we’ve seen the last couple of years.”
Junior quarterback John Raybourn scored on the next play for a 10-0 lead at the 5:49 mark in the first quarter.
“We designed it in practice,” Raybourn said. “We worked it all week. It opened up just like coach drew it up. Our line, we’ve got the best line in the state. So, just follow those guys, the ‘Hoggies’.”
An important goal for Staley was limiting Liberty’s star running back, Robert Rawie, who entered the game with 2,075 yards rushing on the season.
The Falcons defense held Rawie to 31 yards rushing and stopped him 10 times for no gain or behind the line of scrimmage.
“We knew coming in we’re going to have to stop their tailback,” Lite said. “He’s awful good player. We knew we had to be good on play-action pass and we were outstanding tonight. We’d run and rally to the ball. Offensively, I think our speed on offense (helped). We’d seen them blitz everybody under the sun and we were able to just get some good plays early and it just forced them to back off and we were able to take advantage of certain situations.”
Staley will face Park Hill South next Friday at 7 p.m., again playing at NKC-DAC.
“(They’re a) very good football team,” Lite said. “Coach Sharp has done a very great job. Good coaching staff and they’ve got some excellent kids over there. We’ll have our work cut out for us. But, boy, I’ll tell you what, it feels good playing at home.”
“We’re just going to have a great focus, practice, and our coaches are going to have a great game plan,” Ross said. “We’re going to focus on our opponent and take care of us and just be ready to play on Friday.”
The last time they faced the Panthers in the playoffs was in 2012, when the Falcons won 31-21 to advance to the Class 5 quarter-finals.
“It’s been a while since we played them,” Lite said. “They’re very good defensively. Also, they’ve got some talent on offense. They’re big up front. They’re going to run the ball. They’re going to play action. The Springer kid is something special, too. We have our work cut out for us. We’re very similar offensively. We have the utmost respect for that program.”
“We’ll prepare, watch film, and do what we’ve got to do,” Raybourn said. “We’ll be back next week.”
The District championship is especially important for this Falcons team because it is the farthest any of them have advanced in the playoffs.
“It’s a moment of pride for all of us,” Ross said. “Everyone just doing their job from our coaching staff to our offensive line to our wide receivers. Everyone just doing their job correctly. I know we’re super thankful to our coaches. They put so much time and effort. I’m thankful to those guys to help us move on and to become men, too.”
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