Well, we did it. Believe it or not, it happened. We made it through the entire season.
I admit I was skeptical back in August. It seemed possible to get by for a few weeks in this environment, but three months? Things were by no means perfect. Games were missed, and, unfortunately, teams had their seasons end without a chance to take the field.
But, in the end, seven teams in Missouri were named state champions just like last year. And the year before that. And the one before that.
My hat goes off to all the players, coaches and administrations that were able to make this happen. For those kids, especially, I can only imagine how tough of a season this was. I’m sure the discipline they had to show off the field in staying healthy wasn’t always easy, but it was worth it to get this season in.
Each year-end column I like to look back at the season and some of the best performances and games I was lucky enough to cover.
I don’t think there’s a better place to start than just a few short weeks ago with one of the most dominant performances I saw this season, and that was Ray-Pec in the Class 6 state championship game. Their 23-0 win over defending champion and nationally ranked DeSmet was impressive. I understand DeSmet hadn’t played a full schedule of games and had some injuries, but still, anybody who tells you they weren’t surprised by the dominance is a liar. The Panther defense in particular put on a show.
Staying with that game, it’s hard not to mention one of the most dominant individual performances of the season from sophomore Jaidyn Doss. He finished with 190 yards rushing on just 10 carries and scored all three Panther touchdowns. His performance in the backfield highlights his versatility, as he shined as a wide receiver all season long, which earned him the Otis Taylor Award for the best wide receiver or tight end in the Kansas City Metro. It’s going to be fun watching him and seeing how much better he gets the next two years.
Two games stand out as the best, most entertaining games I covered this season, starting with Week 4’s contest between Lafayette County and Summit Christian Academy. This game had a little bit of everything. It was back and forth with multiple lead changes, a memorable fourth-down run and then some late-game redemption from the kicker. Who doesn’t love the kicker getting to be the hero? Kyzer Gann-Vega was the hero on this night with the game-winning field goal late in the fourth quarter for a 31-28 Lafayette County win.
Another fantastic finish was Raytown and Grain Valley back in Week 8, and it also included one of the performances of the season. The Bluejays handed the Eagles their first loss of the season at the time, 21-14, thanks to a 23-yard touchdown run from Zhamari Gary with 4.9 seconds left on the clock. It capped a 255-yard night for Gary, who was a workhorse with 32 carries.
Grain Valley would get its revenge two weeks later, winning 42-7 in the playoffs thanks to an impressive performance from quarterback Cole Keller. Speaking of Keller, I went to several Eagles games this year and one of the most impressive sights of the season was watching Keller in the open field. Nobody was catching him with those long strides.
The 2020 season was one that none of us will soon forget. Let’s hope the 2021 season has a little bit more of a normal feel to it.