Staley pounds NKC

By Ryan Wallace PrepsKC Senior Writer
Posted: November 10, 2018 - 8:09 AM

Entering Friday night’s frigid District Championship in Missouri Class 5, Simone Award candidate CJ Price and North Kansas City stole all the headlines from perennial power Staley as the metro’s Cinderella story of 2018. By game’s end however, it was the defending state champion Falcons backfield that created the headlines, running away from the Hornets to a 44-0 win.

“We say ‘Do what champions do’, and part of that is the mentality of getting yourself prepared to play in the elements,” a victorious Phil Lite said after his team’s dominant performance amidst wind chills that dipped into the single digits. “Even with the weather, it was an incredible atmosphere tonight and I thought our guys showed up and played with a lot of grit. I’m really proud of them.”

Limited offensively to some extent by the temperatures, both squads made it be known early that game plans would revolve around a rushing attack. In the case of North Kansas City, that was no surprise as CJ Price entered as the metro leader in rushing yards (2,888). Though he’d eclipse the 100-yard mark by game’s end, averaging 4.4-yards per rush on 26 carries, it was an early fumble, the first of three Hornets turnovers on the night, that began to unravel the boys of Northtown.

“We had some and I don’t think we forced any on defense,” head coach Leon Douglas said afterwards. “That’s definitely a big part of the game -- protecting the football and then getting the ball back. Hats off to Staley because they did a great job in that area.”

“At the end of the day, you want to have a shot at the champion and Staley is the standard in Class 5. We put ourselves in a position to do that tonight and we weren’t successful.”

Unable to get the ball over the 50-yard line in the first quarter, Staley finally capitalized at the 10:25 minute mark with a 38-yard dash from Jaden Moss to set up an easy 5-yard Koa Grace touchdown on the very next play.

Which brings us back to that unfortunate error on Price’s part, a play that could’ve swung the game in a very different direction. Hoping to respond to Moss’s touchdown with an equalizer of his own, Price found himself spinning out of a swarm of Staley defenders at his own 20-yard line to the sight of an empty sideline. Nearly straightened out to head for the house on an incredible cut, the pigskin popped free without contact, bouncing down the opposite direction before being scooped up by Quinten Arello for a heartbreaking 14-0 lead.

“Our whole objective coming in was containing (Price),” admitted Lite of his defensive strategy. “He’s a fantastic back and we just didn’t want to give up a big play.”

“I thought our defensive staff did a great job prepping our guys to limit him, and then our offense executed very well up front and started to gain a lot of confidence.”

Stuffing Price on a fourth and one the next series, it was Moss’s turn again, flashing through the Hornet defense for a 42-yard score that gave the Falcons a 21-0 lead at half and Staley never looked back from there.

“Personally, it was a little more sweet (than usual),” said Moss, who ran for 163-yards on 16 carries, alluding to the rivalry with North Kansas City. “The past couple weeks we’ve been struggling to click and tonight we came together as a team. We’re brothers and we fight together.”

 For the reigning state champions, it’s another year where they’ll live to fight yet another November day. Coming off a strong performance against NKC, holding the Hornets to just 141-yards of total offense while piling up 333-yards of their own behind a trio of running backs in Moss, Grace, and Dermont Marshall, they’ll now move on to face Fort Osage next in a rematch of last year’s quarterfinals.

In the case of the Hornets, the final bell rang on their 2018 fight, ending a remarkable 9-3 turnaround for a school just a year removed from a 3-7 finish.

“I’m very proud of my guys,” a positive Douglas reflected. “As a program, we added two trophies to our trophy case this year and that’s a first for us. We had 9 wins, hosted a playoff game, won a playoff game, had a chance to play for both a district championship and conference championship – that’s big for us.”

“We understand where we’ve come from and where we’re moving. So, there’s a lot to be thankful for and celebrate as well because it’s been a great year.”