COLUMBIA — Just one week after a heart-breaking loss at home to Blue Springs South, the Raymore-Peculiar Panthers were in desperate need of a victory. The team had fallen to 1-2 (0-2 in Districts) and the schedule was not about to get easier.
Last Friday night, the Panthers traveled to Columbia, MO to take on a very good Rock Bridge team. The Bruins were ranked second in the state, and as Ray-Pec head coach Tom Kruse would say after the game, “They’re not the number-two ranked team in the state for nothin’.”
Raymore-Peculiar didn’t seem to worry about state rankings, though. The Panthers played a clean and physical football game to pull out what is perhaps the upset of the year, defeating the Rock Bridge Bruins 31-21.
The standout for Rock Bridge was senior Eli Stout who made plays on both sides of the ball all game. Stout started the scoring for the Bruins, taking a handoff 44 yards for the first points of the game. An extra point put the home team ahead 7-0 with around six minutes to play in the first quarter.
Ray-Pec would never get down by more than a touchdown, though, as Panther quarterback Reed Davis tossed a touchdown pass to fellow senior Scotty Schaffner on the first play of the second quarter, eventually tying the game 7-7.
“From an offensive standpoint, we’re not a spread finesse team,” said Coach Kruse.
“We’re just going to try to control the clock and be physical. I think we established that.”
In addition to their focus on offense, the visitors also had to figure out how to contain the Bruins. Going into week four, Rock Bridge had averaged 48 points a game, being able to move the ball both through the air as well as on the ground.
“I was very pleased with our defense,” said Kruse — with good reason — the Panthers kept the Bruins scoreless in the second half.
A little over a minute after Raymore-Peculiar tied the game at 7, Rock Bridge junior quarterback Logan Twehouse completed a 13-yard touchdown pass to six-foot-three junior Alex Ofodile.
Ray-Pec answered with a four-minute drive that resulted in senior Steve Brown grinding the ball up the middle through the Bruin defense to earn the score.
Rock Bridge responded with a four-minute drive of their own, scoring another touchdown on a pass to Zach Reuter.
The Panthers took the ball and marched down the field. A huge run down the sideline by Jason Wilson put the visitors at the 8-yard line with just over two minutes until halftime. Two plays later, Ray-Pec handed the ball to Brown who fumbled at the five-yard line, resulting in a turnover.
The teams headed to the locker rooms with a score of 21-14 in the Bruins’ favor.
A turnover on downs and a couple of punts started the second half in Columbia. A keeper by Davis and extra point by Dallas Hille tied the game for the Panthers with 2:41 remaining in the third.
In order to mount their comeback, Raymore-Peculiar had to make some adjustments on defense.
“They (Rock Bridge) hadn’t been using the slot back a lot, so we cheated our safety over the top and brought that guy off the edge,” said Kruse after the game.
“That guy” ended up being Jordan Van Trump on a couple of plays on the same possession in the second half, racking up two sacks in the third quarter.
On Rock Bridge’s next drive, Ray-Pec senior Bubba Blackburn caused and recovered a fumble, setting up a drive for his team that would carry into the final quarter.
With 11:05 remaining in the fourth, the Panthers’ Hille drilled a 30-yard field goal to give the visitors the lead for the first time in the game.
Raymore-Peculiar caused a punt and stopped the Bruins on fourth-and-one before taking the ball with 6:05 left in the game. Junior Isaiah Truss would get the handoff and take it 56 yards for the touchdown score, putting the Panthers ahead 31-21 with 4:17 remaining.
The victory would be sealed just a couple of plays later when senior Baylee Custer picked off a pass from Rock Bridge’s Twehouse near the 20-yard line.
Reed Davis and the rest of the Ray-Pec offense took the ball over at their own 27 and Davis kept the ball in his hands.
After a couple of keepers, the Panthers ran the victory formation with Davis taking the knee and running the clock down to finalize their victory.
The defense was huge for Raymore-Peculiar Friday night, holding Rock Bridge to just over 100 yards of total offense in the second half. The Panthers’ Van Trump and Ben Harris kept pressure on the quarterback all night.
On offense, Ray-Pec’s Davis was 7-for-13 for 60 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. Isaiah Truss took eight carries for 85 yards and he and Steve Brown both scored a touchdown.
“After the double overtime loss last week, I had no idea how we would respond,” head coach Tom Kruse said after the game.
“I challenged them all week to see if we could play physical — play physical football.”
The Panthers answered the call, winning the upset, and changing their course of the season.