One of the most exciting games I went to last season was during the final week of the regular season. Raytown was visiting North Kansas City, both teams were 8-1, ranked in the Top 10 in Class 5 and the Suburban White Conference championship was on the line.
The Blue Jays squeaked out a 35-34 victory thanks to a late stop on a Hornet two-point conversion. I remember thinking I couldn’t wait for the potential rematch between the two teams in the playoffs.
But it never happened.
Raytown got a first-round bye in the playoffs but then got blown out the following week by Belton, 35-7. At the time, I did a double-take when I saw that final. 35-7?
So after watching the Blue Jays pull out a come-from-behind victory over Blue Springs South last Friday night, 23-21, I wasn’t surprised to hear that loss to Belton has been on the minds of the coaches and players.
“We’ve been living with it for a while,” Blue Jays head coach Logan Minnick told me after defeating South.
Added Blue Jay standout quarterback Joe Campbell, “In that loss to Belton we weren’t physical. In the first half, they (South) were more physical than we were.”
But not the second half.
This is what the Blue Jays are hoping is different this season. They played smashmouth football in the second half and started to wear down the Jaguars. They had a nice mixture of the run and pass, as they went with shorter passes to their playmakers with South taking away the deep ball.
Campbell had time to throw, and when necessary, his offensive line opened holes when he ran. I was impressed with both the offensive and defensive lines. The defense thwarted any attempts the Jaguar offense made to get into a rhythm, so the physicality wasn’t just on the offensive side of the ball.
But the offense is where the excitement starts with this team and there’s no better place for it to begin than with Campbell, one of the most exciting players in the area.
It’s impossible not to think he’s going to make a big play nearly every time he touches the ball. I felt that way on several occasions. And plenty of times he did. I was impressed with some of the throws he made, but his ability to make plays with his legs, especially those impromptu plays, is what makes him special. He’s a nightmare for defenses when he decides to take off and run.
And he has weapons. D’Vontae Key, Jaheim Burks, Isaiah Mims and two-way player Dontae Manning all showed the ability to be dangerous with the ball in their hands. I except defenses that face the Blue Jays this season will have their hands full.
Does that make the 2019 version of Raytown football any different than the 2018 version? Only time will tell. The Blue Jays got my attention Friday night. I would imagine the rest of the area – especially Class 5 teams – are already on alert.