Exorcising the deamon

Jeff Stead

By Cody Thorn Special to PrepsKC
Posted: November 19, 2017 - 10:44 AM

Staley quarterback John Raybourn remembers last year's state semifinal game and the pain that followed a 34-31 loss to Vianney.

The Falcons jumped out to a 31-14 lead at the break, but faltered in the second half.

That loss became the driving force for the Falcons this year and on Saturday, the No. 1-ranked team blew out visiting Carthage, 54-13, at the North Kansas City DAC.

The win vaults the Falcons to the Class 5 title game next week against Pattonville and helped sooth some of the wounds from last year's heartbreak.

“It stuck with us this whole time, it was our motivation,” Raybourn said of the loss in last year's semifinals game. “The four hours back, it was the longest bus ride we ever had. It felt like it was a two-day bus ride. We had a lot of time to think and we all knew we wanted to be back in the position and we knew we would take advantage of it.”

Raybourn and J.D. Benbow were the driving forces behind the Falcons (13-0) rolling to another victory. Raybourn ran for two touchdowns and passed for another, while Benbow ran for three scores and hauled in Raybourn's touchdown pass as Staley dominated the Tigers.

Benbow's 1-yard run capped the opening drive of the contest to give Staley a 7-0 lead.

Arkell Smith hauled in a 78-yard touchdown pass from Zeke Sappington on the Tigers' first offensive play in the first quarter. Smith outran the Falcon secondary players to get Carthage on the board with 9:26 left in the first quarter. Marcus Huntley's PAT tied the game at 7-7.

That was one of the few highlights on the day for the Tigers, who lost in the 2015 semifinals to Chaminade College Prep on the road in St. Louis.

Staley drove 69 yards on its second drive and added another touchdown on the board when quarterback Raybourn ran in for a 12-yard score, breaking two tackles and carrying two Tigers into the end zone. Staley ran the ball on nine of the 12 plays on the scoring drive.

Staley led 14-7 at the end of the first quarter and added two more scores on the next to drives.

The Falcons continued to pound the ball with nine straight carries, ending with Raybourn running in for a 10-yard touchdown with a little more than 7 minutes to play in the first half.

After forcing another punt by Carthage, Staley put together a 10-play drive that ended with Benbow running in from 3 yards out. Staley had four plays of 10 yards or more on the drive.

“We had the lead last year and we let it go,” Raybourn said. “Once we got the lead we had to stomp on their throats.”

Carthage pulled within 28-13 on the first drive of the second half when they marched down 80 yards and scored on Sappington's 12-yard run.

Staley then scored four straight times to take a two-possession game into turbo-clock territory, literally running away from the Tigers, who had won nine of the past 10 entering this contest.

“They had been playing real well here late,” Staley coach Phil Lite said of Carthage. “I think maybe they had given up 21 points in the postseason. You know they are a really good football team. They have done a great job of coaching them and their kids played hard and they have a lot of talented players.

“There were some things we wanted to exploit in their man coverage and we were able to do that and get them running. I think they had nine kids play both ways and we went fast and gassed them.”

The third quarter featured a 20-yard touchdown run by Benbow, while Raybourn (48 yards) and Aaron Keast (5 yards) also broke through the Carthage defense for scores on the ground.

A 12-yard pass from Raybourn to Benbow, a Smithville transfer, capped the scoring with 1:16 left in the third quarter.

“We have the best offensive line in the state, we have the best wide receivers in the state,” Raybourn said. “We can go far with our run game or pass game.”