Rare meeting rivals

Jeff Stead/PrepsKC

By Brian Spano PrepsKC Senior Writer
Posted: September 26, 2018 - 4:14 PM

It has been five years since Staley and Lee's Summit West last met on the gridiron. On Friday night, these two programs, that have somewhat mirrored each other over the past 11 years, renewed a rivalry that was cemented during two semifinal playoff games played in 2010 and 2011.

Even though these teams have met only five times in their history, it's not the typical heated rivalry you might think of between schools that meet every year. This is something a little bit different.

"It's a special rivalry against Staley, because you talk about two brand new programs that were just developing, and they both built themselves the same way," former Lee's Summit West head coach Royce Boehm said. "That's what's so special about the connection, and that's what brings back alumni who have lived through that."

Boehm was hired to build the West program from scratch in 2004, while Fred Bouchard came from Harrisonville to build the Staley program in 2008. Boehm had been an assistant at Belton and Lee's Summit North prior to taking the helm at West. Bouchard was already a proven head coach with multiple state titles to his resume. Both programs found success early and then did what most couldn't do, maintain it. Their success has led to two of the greatest high school football games played on this side of Missouri.

"What both of these programs have in common besides outstanding coaching staffs, is tremendous community support, administrative support and numbers," said Staley head coach Phil Lite. "Both programs have great numbers, and when you have numbers, kids can play one way, and that makes a huge difference. It's two quality programs."

The game everyone remembers and will probably say they attended was the epic four-overtime thriller Staley won 76-70 in 2011 that sent the Falcons to St. Louis and the eventual state championship. We'll get to that in a minute.

It was the year before where it all began when the Titans battled Staley in their first-ever meeting. It was the Class 5 semifinal game at Staley, and both teams were on a collision course to meet to decide who would be the Kansas City representative for the state championship.

"Getting up there and seeing the massive crowd size on the visitor size and just how much of a following there was," said Mark Files, Lee's Summit West radio sideline reporter. "They brought the band, the kid’s section was huge, the parents were there. The buildup to it, that was the game of the week. I know it was Class 5, but that was the one everyone was talking about."

Staley was 11-2 and West was 13-1, two of the best Class 5 teams in the state. Both teams entered the game sporting the top two defenses in the state, but ironically, it was an offensive play in the final minute that this game would be remembered for by the Titan fanbase.

Trailing 14-10, West got the ball back on their own 40-yard line with a little more than two minutes to play in the game, then junior quarterback Luke Knott went to work. On the final play of the drive, he rolled out to his right and found Brandon Smith in the end zone for the winning touchdown with just seconds left on the clock. West went on to win its second state championship that year, defeating Webster Groves.

Now, let's get back to that game, or THE GAME, in 2011. It's the one everyone has always talked or even asked about. It's the one that brought a national network, ESPNU, to Lee's Summit West to showcase the two teams when they opened up against each other in 2012.

The Class 5 state semifinal game was again back at Staley, and again both teams brought in two of the best defenses in the state. Little did anyone know that, first, this would be one of the most explosive offensive performances and second, probably the greatest high school football games they would ever witness. It had everything.

"I vividly remember sitting down with the offense before the game and everyone was projecting it to be a low-scoring game," Knott said laughing. "We kind of took offense to it. We had some great numbers on the offensive side of the ball. Nobody could stop us, so we went in with a little bit of a chip on our shoulder."

After losing to West the previous year in the semifinals, this became a revenge game for the Falcons, and they were going to do whatever it took to keep their record unblemished on their way to a state title.

It looked like it was going to be deja vu all over again for Staley.

Last second heroics from Knott and his wide receiver Shaq Harrison did it again for the Titans. This time they connected for a score to tie the game at 49-49 and send it to its first overtime.

Former Staley head coach Fred Bouchard said right after the game, "It's unbelievable. When it was 49-49, I was saying it was unbelievable. You talk about a heavyweight slugging match, 15 rounds, and we don't have winner yet? Let's go 10 more. It was one for the ages. Maybe the best one I've ever seen."

In overtime, again the action was back and forth. Staley had the ball first, scored, then West, then Staley and so on.

In the fourth and final overtime, West had the ball first, and in a game that was short on standout defensive plays, Staley came up with the biggest one. Knott was flushed from the pocket, hit from behind, the ball came loose, and the Falcons recovered.

Tied at 70-70, Staley set up at the 25-yard line. On the first play, quarterback Trent Hosick handed the ball off to his tailback Morgan Steward who then proceeded to sidestep his way through Titan defenders until he was able to dive into the end zone for the score and the Falcons win.

Staley went on to win the state championship that year with a 35-21 win over Kirkwood to complete a 14-0 season.

"Honestly, to this day, people still talk about that being the best high school football game in Kansas City that they've ever seen," Boehm said. "And to be able to be a part of that and know that was a knockdown drag out, it was so fun."