Panthers lose heartbreaker, make strides

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The Raymore-Peculiar Panthers (1-1) hosted the Blue Springs South Jaguars (1-1) Friday night in Peculiar with the two teams coming in ranked fifth and sixth in Class 6, District 4 respectively. Both teams had experienced a blowout win and a blowout loss to start their seasons.

The Panthers beat the Belton Pirates 62-14 in their season-opener, but lost to Liberty 47-14 last week. The Jaguars destroyed Truman 47-0 in their first game of the year, but fell to Fort Osage 40-9 last week.

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A full house was gathered at Panther Stadium Friday night for one of the best football games of the year.

Friday night’s game would provide much more excitement for everybody. It was the kind of game that everyone will someday say “I remember that,” or “I was there,” though they may not have been. Unfortunately for the Panthers,who ended up on the wrong side of this game, it will be one of those games that no one will forget.

The Jags took the ball at the start of the game and a pair of strong rushing plays from sophomore running back Adam Cofield moved the chains early on for South. The visitor’s real running weapon, however, was senior Emery Ester, who finished with 22 carries for 96 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

The Jaguars were starting senior Colton Pogue at quarterback for the first time this year, as first-stringer Chris Swingle was on the sideline on crutches. In addition to being their back-up quarterback, Pogue is also the team’s place kicker.

The Panthers forced the Jaguars to punt and started their first drive of the game from their own 24-yard line. A couple of botched plays and a fumble lost put the Jaguars in a strong position to score midway through the first quarter. After South converted a fourth-and-sixteen on a pass from Pogue, Emery Ester would take a 16-yard carry into the end zone for the first score of the game, putting the visitors up 7-0.

After Raymore-Peculiar had to punt the ball away on a three-and-out, senior Marcus Zweifel, who would go on to have one of the biggest games of his high school career, picked up a fumble just a play later. The Panthers were unable to make much of the good fortune as Ray-Pec’s senior quarterback Reed Davis threw an interception on second-and-ten. South’s DJ Brownlee picked the ball thrown by Davis, who was being hit as he threw, and ran it back 58 yards for another touchdown.

The Jags took a 14-0 lead, but would not score again for the rest of regulation.

“We knew going in that these two teams were evenly matched,” said Panthers head coach Tom Kruse.

“I’m proud of our effort.”

It would take a lot of effort–and several offensive pushes– for the home team to finally put points on the scoreboard.

Ray-Pec’s Steve Brown moved the ball all down the field for the Panthers on their next drive. He helped them get all the way to the 11-yard line and the crowd at Panther Stadium started to come alive. After two runs for no gain and an incomplete pass, kicker Dallas Hille had his field goal attempt blocked and the air left the stadium like a deflated balloon.

After the teams traded possessions again, the Jags made a solid push into Ray-Pec territory. Coach Tom Kruse called a timeout to allow his team to regain their focus.

Once play resumed, South’s Cofield fumbled the ball on an outside carry and the Panthers’ Zweifel scooped it up, carried it down the field in front of the visitor’s sideline and was taken down at the Jaguar 32-yard line. The play was clearly a shot to the arm for the home team, who avoided going down by three and scored a touchdown by a Steve Brown carry up the middle. The senior running back finished the game with 91 yards on 24 carries.

Raymore-Peculiar missed another great opportunity to score before the half as a tipped pass floated through the air and down through the hands of defensive back Baylee Custer. The crowd gasped and groaned as everyone in the stadium felt the opportunity.

Time expired and the teams went to the locker room with the visitors leading the home team 14-7.

The Panthers' Isaiah Truss pushes through the defense on a hand-off in Friday night's game against Blue Springs South.

The Panthers’ Isaiah Truss pushes through the defense on a hand-off in Friday night’s game against Blue Springs South.

In the second half, the Jags’ Emery Ester took the hand-off around midfield into Ray-Pec territory, setting up a second-and-two for the visitors. Ester took the ball again for South and gained a first-down. Three plays later, the Jags’ Pogue was sacked back at his own 49-yard line by Panther juniors C.J. Donaldson and Ben Harris. Defensively, Ray-Pec looked very sharp throughout the second half.

“Defensively, it was a good stint for us,” Coach Kruse said after the game. “We really made some plays defensively.”

The Jags would eventually get the ball back and nearly turn it over again. A third down pass by Pogue was knocked down by Ray-Pec’s Dallas Hille, who had the ball fall right out of his hands, similar to the drop by Custer before halftime. The crowd collectively gasped once again.

“I would take Dallas Hille’s hands, Baylee Custer’s hands, they’re pretty solid,” Kruse said.

“They made some plays and kind of got caught in the emotion a little bit.”

Custer would make up for recently missed opportunities on the next play.

A fourth-down try by South resulted in an interception in the end zone by Custer, who took the ball out of the end zone and rushed the it back to his team’s 34-yard line.

A toss to Isaiah Truss gained five yards for Ray-Pec and ended the third quarter with score locked at 14-7. Though the Panthers were still trailing by a touchdown, the momentum in the game had clearly shifted.

The Panthers would not score until their last drive of the fourth quarter.

Ray-Pec took over at their own 25-yard line after a Blue Springs South punt with just under six minutes to play. Quarterback Davis converted a third-and-one all by himself, rushing the ball into Jags’ territory, getting stopped at their 49-yard line.

Steve Brown got the carry on the first down play: another shotgun hand-off from Davis, and gained nine yards. After an incomplete pass to Scotty Schaffner, the Jaguars were called for a personal foul and the Panthers were in a very advantageous position as they took the ball at the 24-yard line with 2:55 left to play.

Junior Isaiah Truss rushes into the end zone to tie the game in the closing seconds of regulation.

Junior Isaiah Truss rushes into the end zone to tie the game in the closing seconds of regulation.

Less than 90 seconds remained in the game as junior Isaiah Truss took the hand-off after the measurement. Truss bounced out to the right of the defensive line and ran past a solid block by Ben Sinclair to make his way into the end zone. Dallas Hille made the extra point to tie the game at 14 and 1:16 remained on the clock.

South gave the home team a legitimate scare at the end of the game, but a missed field goal would send the game into overtime.

Blue Springs South won the toss and elected to receive to start extra play. MSHSAA rules for high school football overtime call for teams to exchange possessions from the 25-yard line until one team comes out on top.

A couple of hand-offs to Ester got the Jaguars a quick first-down at the 12-yard line. The third hand-off to Ester ended with the South senior stretching his arm out over the goal line while he was being tackled, which was good enough for a touchdown and a six-point advantage. Pogue converted the extra point and the Jags took the lead, 21-14.

Ray-Pec’s possession from the 25-yard line started with a Steve Brown hand-off from the shotgun for five yards. Brown took the ball again on second down, only gaining two yards. Junior Isaiah Truss took the ball on third down and ran into the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown score. Dallas Hille converted the extra point, tying the game at 21.

The second round of overtime possessions began with Raymore-Peculiar. After three plays left the Panthers at the place they started, the end result was a 42-yard field goal attempt by sophomore James Sappington. The ball floated through the air as the crowd remained silent and then, to the shock of South’s sideline, the ball sneaked through the uprights to an uproar on the Ray-Pec side of the stadium. It was the Panthers’ first lead of the game at 24-21.

The Jaguars, like the Panthers, were unable to gain any ground on their first three plays of possession. Instead of bringing out their kicker for the long field goal attempt, however, the visitors decided to use their offense to try to finish the game. If the defense was to stop South from getting a first-down, the game would be over.

The Jags’ Pogue dropped back to pass on the snap and looked for options down the field. The senior tossed the ball toward the end zone in the direction of sophomore Briley Moore-McKinney who dove for the ball, catching it cleanly in the end zone.

Panther fans fell silent as Blue Springs South rushed the field in celebration of one of the most exciting high school football games anyone could ever see. Blue Springs South won the match 27-24.

“We made some strides as a football team, especially defensively,” said Ray-Pec head coach Tom Kruse after the game. “We grew a lot as a football team between the second quarter and the end of that football game.”

The loss to the Jaguars makes Ray-Pec 0-2 in District play this year.

“We’re kind of behind the 8-ball a little bit,” Kruse said. “We just have to continue to improve, continue to get better, and continue to believe in one another.”

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