In the nick of time

PrepsKC staff

By Cole Young PrepsKC Senior Writer
Posted: November 26, 2017 - 10:34 AM

Columbia, Mo. — The Show-Me Bowl celebrated it’s 50th Anniversary this year and the final game of the first 50 years had one of the biggest finishes.

Staley drove the length of the field in the final 57 seconds to score a touchdown and game-winning two-point conversion, defeating Pattonville 36-35.

The Falcons won their second Missouri Class 5 state title, but this one didn’t come without a battle.

Tied 28-28, Pattonville took a 35-28 lead when Charles Shelton caught his third touchdown pass of the night to give the Pirates their first lead since midway through the first quarter.

But Staley answered right back, driving 72 yards in 41 seconds capped off with a nine-yard reception by Zach Elam, the third touchdown he scored on the night.

Pulling the game to within a point, 35-34, Staley head coach Phil Lite called a timeout to discuss what to do next. Afterward, Lite admitted there was no real discussion — they were going for the win.

“With 13 seconds left I told all our guys that if we scored here, we were going for two,” Lite said. “One thing about it is we have about six or eight two-point plays. The one for the touchdown that was a two-point conversion play, then we ran another two-point conversion play (to win it).”

On the two point conversion Staley quarterback John Raybourn rolled right, then avoided two Pattonville defenders before moving back to the left to find a wide open JD Benbow for the conversion.

Benbow had came across the field and settled in the left side of the end zone with no one around him.

“I’m just an option on that play,” Benbow said. “If he rolls back the other way I’m there. When I saw that there was going to be an opening I just sat there and waited for him to make his move. He’s the leader, he’s our captain. When he came back I knew he was going to throw it to me. He made eye contact.”

It was the story book 14-0 finish for Staley, albeit with a few turnovers along the way.

Staley turned the ball over four times, twice on fumbles and a pair of interceptions from Raybourn.

For Lite it was a matter of getting his star quarterback to not press so much.

“I think there are always jitters in games like this,” Lite said. “I told our kids at half we had way too many penalties and we turned the ball over, but we were able to play good defense and be sound in the kicking game.”

Despite allowing 35 points, the Staley defense was impressive. They sacked Kaleb Eleby, a Western Michigan commit, seven times holding the Pirates to -27 yards rushing which tied a state championship record.

Leading the way was Zach Elam, who by all measures had the best game of his career as a Falcon.

The senior tight end and defensive end finished with three touchdowns. Offensively he had two scores, one a 76-yard touchdown pass and the other the crucial touchdown in the final seconds. He added another to start the game defensively, breaking up a pass and scoring from 27 yards.

“He’s an animal,” Lite said. “He’s the only player in our 10 year history to be a two-way player. The sacks and the pressures he had were huge.”

To go along with his three scores, he had six tackles for loss and three sacks.

It was a career day for a player who next year will compete at the collegiate level just across the street from Faurot Field as a wrestler at Missouri.

He nearly had a seventh sack that would have brought down Eleby on the then go-ahead touchdown. Instead the quarterback worked his way free to throw for the score.

“I thought to myself some bad words, why did you miss that, but I was like you know what, it happened for a reason,” Elam said. “Shoot. That was the reason.”

Instead it preserved the clock, giving Staley enough time to craft its game winning drive and secure the state title.