Last year’s match between Raymore-Peculiar and Liberty was full of drama.
This year’s game between the two schools was different–much different.
Fresh off of their 62-14 blowout win over Belton, the Raymore-Peculiar Panthers hosted the Liberty Blue Jays at Panther Stadium Friday night in Peculiar. The Blue Jays entered the game ranked twelfth in the state and the Panthers came in ranked fourteenth.
Ray-Pec won the opening toss, but that would prove to be their only victory of the night as things would go downhill quickly in a game that featured a running clock and second-string players all throughout the second half. The Panthers elected to kick and kicker James Sappington launched the ball out of the end zone, rendering a touchback.
The very first play ended in a touchdown for the Blue Jays, whose talent caught the home team off guard. Junior quarterback A.J. Cambric threw a strike to senior wide receiver Jackson Redmond cutting across the middle near their own 40-yard line. Redmond ran 60 yards to the end zone untouched.
The game didn’t go as Raymore-Peculiar had been planning. Last year they overtook Liberty, though they were down by 21 points early on. This year, the Blue Jays made sure that wouldn’t happen again. A speedy offense working through play-actions and even a flea flicker, paired with a tough defense, stifled any chance that Ray-Pec had.
Liberty, who would eventually lead 28-0 in the half, tried to put the Panthers away early by attempting an onside kick on their first kickoff. The try was unsuccessful by the Blue Jays and it resulted in a Panther offensive possession from the 44-yard line. Ray-Pec could not take advantage of the field position, however, as the offense ran a quick three-and-out, unable to beat Liberty’s blitz.
A good punt put the Blue Jays inside their own 20-yard line. The Panther defense would keep them there, as a sack by senior Bubba Blackburn put Liberty at their own 5-yard line and forced them to punt.
Raymore-Peculiar, unable to gain a first down in the first three plays of their second drive, tried to convert a fourth-and-two, but senior running back Steve Brown was tackled for a loss of five yards on the play, giving the Blue Jays the ball back on the Liberty 35-yard line.
A second-and-ten rush down the Panther sideline by Blue Jay junior Devon Bryant ended in a 65-yard touchdown with 6:20 left on the clock in the first quarter and a 14-point advantage for the visitors.
The Panthers would then take the ball back at their own 25-yard line to begin their third possession of the game. That drive, as the ones before it, also ended without a first down and a change of possession.
Liberty’s Bryant took the hand-off on their next drive on a third-and-four, gaining the first down and rushing into Ray-Pec territory. On the next play, the Blue Jays had too many men on the field, resulting in a 15-yard penalty that moved them back across the 50-yard line.
That call, coupled with a big hit by Panther senior Marcus Zweifel set Liberty back several yards, making the count second-and-twenty-eight. The Raymore-Peculiar area fans that came out to the game–a full house–started to refill Panther Stadium with cheers and excitement again as the prospect of the home team getting back in the game was looking good.
Ray-Pec could not find a way to get the stop, however, as a nine-yard run and an off-balance scrambling pass by Cambric pushed Liberty to Ray-Pec’s 21-yard line and deflated the crowd. After a few plays and the expiration of the first quarter, Cambric connected with Redmond once again for a short two-yard touchdown pass, putting Liberty ahead 21-0.
Starting from their own 27-yard line, the Panthers were given second life on a third-down play gone awry, as quarterback Reed Davis was sacked seventeen yards from the first-down marker, but a Liberty defender grabbed his facemask, making the count third-and-two. Ray-Pec converted their first first-down of the game but was pushed to a fourth-and-ten after Davis slipped after the snap, falling to the ground for a four-yard loss and the Panthers were called for a delay of game.
The next two plays symbolized much of the struggle found throughout the game: Ray-Pec attempted a fake punt and failed and the Blue Jays took advantage of the costly error, scoring a touchdown on the very next play via flea flicker. Running back Devon Bryant received the toss and launched the ball downfield to a wide-open Brady Newland. After the extra point, Liberty took a 28-0 lead.
After the Panthers suffered another three-and-out and punted the ball back to the Blue Jays, things would finally start to go their way for a little bit.
Liberty’s Cambric completed a pass for a first down with 5:40 to go in the half, but threw an interception with at the 4:37 mark. Sophomore defensive back Baylee Custer picked off Cambric and the Panthers took over at their own 25-yard line.
Reed Davis earned Ray-Pec a first down on a rush that took his team to the 37-yard line with 3:52 to go. Davis’ followed up the rush by completing a deep pass to senior wide out Jason Wilson. The Panthers would finally score on the next play—a beautiful eighteen-yard pass to senior Scotty Schaffner in the corner of the end zone. The score was 28-7 in favor of the visitors.
After a touchback, Liberty took over at their own 20-yard line. The Blue Jays converted a first-down at the 2:30 mark, but were still 65 yards away from the end zone. A Marcus Zweifel sack pushed the visitors back to the 20-yard line once again. The Panthers desperately needed a stop before the half to give themselves another chance to score.
Cambric would not let that happen though, as he rushed his way to a first-down.
One play later, Cambric tossed a 57-yard touchdown to Newland, rendering the score 35-7 after the extra point.
As the Panthers pushed toward the end zone, trying to get a final score before halftime, Davis connected with junior Isaiah Truss as well as senior Schaffner for first-downs before running for a first-down of his own. He was later sacked hard by the Blue Jays’ Tyler Baker and Davis lay on the field after time expired and his team headed to the locker room, but he would walk off of the field on his own power.
The second half started off as bleak as the first half ended for Ray-Pec. After two rushing plays, the Panthers faced a third-and-five which resulted in an interception off the hand of Davis. Liberty junior Jacob McGowan picked off the pass and returned it to the sixteen-yard line. The Blue Jays’ back-up quarterback followed up by tossing a touchdown pass on the first play to sophomore Brandon McGinnis.
The Panthers scored another touchdown in the game due to junior Isaiah Truss’ rushing skills. Truss finished with 77 yards on nine carries and a touchdown.
Time ran off the clock quickly with no stoppage occurring all throughout the second half. The final score was 42-14 in favor of Liberty.
Head coach Tom Kruse told his team after the game that he did not expect the blowout.
“We have to get tougher,” Kruse told his squad. “And I’ll put that on my shoulders.”