Raytown football coach Logan Mininck called it the “Chittwood Curse,” that feeling of malaise and futility that has hung over Bluejays football since the man whose name graces the school’s stadium coached there.
That curse can now be considered lifted. And it took some heavy lifting.
Raytown made it five in a row Friday night, surviving a wild back-and-forth game with Fort Osage for a 42-35 victory in a Suburban White Conference showdown. Now the Bluejays are not only 6-1, they also secured the school’s first winning season in 26 years.
Ted Chittwood, who won 231 games in 34 years at Raytown, would certainly be proud.
“That’s a huge deal,” Minnick said. “It’s been way too long. We finally got past the Chittwood Curse.”
Raytown (6-1, 4-1 Suburban White) overcame four lead changes and two ties before putting Fort Osage away and a wild fourth quarter that featured a combined 34 points. Raytown relied on its big-play offense and quarterback Joe Campbell, who completed 19 of 32 passes for 412 yards and three touchdowns while scrambling most of the night. Wide receiver Jaheim Burks caught two of those TDs in his 138 receiving yards.
Fort Osage (3-4 and 2-2) countered with a physical line that pummeled Raytown up front most of the game and a steady rushing attack. Junior running back Brandon Gregory carried the ball 30 times for the Indians, racking up 151 yards and two TDs as the Indians gained 249 yards on the ground.
But in the end, two big plays from Raytown receiver D’Vontae Key in the fourth quarter would turn the game for the Bluejays.
Key scored on a 5-yard sweep at the start of the fourth quarter, capping a 16-play, 80-yard drive that gave Raytown a 28-21 lead. Three plays later, Fort Osage answered with a 41-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ty Baker to Richard Wiseman Jr. for a 28-28 tie.
On the ensuing kickoff, Key grabbed the ball just in front of the goal line, broke several tackles and found a seam down the right sideline for a 99-yard kickoff return that quickly put the Bluejays back on top.
“Coach just said take it to the house,” Key said. “I just found a lane and I took it in there.”
“We knew this week we’d have a shot at some because their kicker is a pretty good touchback kicker but occasionally he’ll leave one inside the five (yard line),” Minnick said. “If we give one of our special kids a shot and put a body on a body we could get one.”
Fort Osage answered again when Von Young IV broke loose for a 41-yard TD run that retied the game 35-35 with just under 7 minutes left.
But Raytown, with some help from a 38-yard screen pass from Campbell to Key, struck again. Facing fourth and 15 on the Indians’ 35, Campbell connected on a fade to Brooks, who rolled it into the end zone for the go-ahead score with 4:26 left. Raytown’s defense held the Indians to four and out, and the Bluejays ran out the clock.
Raytown took a quick 13-0 lead in the first quarter even with Campbell scrambling under Fort Osage’s blitzing defense. After an interception ended the Bluejays’ first possession, Campbell tossed a 69-yard touchdown pass to Burks the second time he threw the ball. He then threw a 49-yarder to Messiah Miller one play after the Bluejays recovered an onside kick.
“When they blitz six guys, it’s easy for me not to get mad at our line because we can’t block six guys,” Campbell said. “We’ve been working on scramble drills so when I have to go outside and roll out, our guys will know exactly where I’m going to be.”
Fort Osage got its first TD shortly after Raytown fumbled a punt return on its 10, setting up a 2-yard run by Gregory. The Indians went up 14-13 on an 11-play, 60-yard drive capped by Young’s 7-yard TD run.
That lead lasted until Raytown’s Ian McGready kicked a 20-yard field goal with 2.5 seconds left in the half and put the Bluejays up 16-14.
And back and forth it went, until the curse became history with one of the biggest wins Raytown has had in a long time.
“That was one of the best teams in Class 5,” Campbell said. “Beating them just sends a statement to everybody that well, we’re also one of the best teams in Class 5 and we’re coming after everybody else.”