For an offense that had trouble gaining much traction all season, perhaps Truman can build on the 310 yards it compiled in Thursday’s season-ending district quarterfinal at Raytown.
But Raytown running back Josh Drake was the chief beneficiary of another season-long issue for the winless Patriots – their leaky defense. The junior rushed for 224 yards and five touchdowns on just seven carries to highlight the Blue Jays’ 48-9 win in a Class 5 District 7 playoff opener.
Raytown (5-5) advances to play Winnetonka on Wednesday, while the Patriots’ finished 0-10 in Gregg Webb’s first season at the helm, their fifth winless campaign in school history.
“We had trouble scoring points and couldn’t keep them from scoring – that’s been the issue all year,” Webb said. “At least in this game we moved the ball with some consistency.”
After a short punt gave Raytown its first possession at Truman’s 39, Drake went untouched around the left side for his first touchdown.
He added a 1-yard scoring plunge after breaking off a 90-yarder, then took a pitch right 20 yards for his third score. Michael Baxter hooked up with Dontel Jones for a 40-yard touchdown pass as Raytown needed just six offensive snaps to build a 27-0 lead with 1:38 left in first quarter (Aaron Spradley missed his second PAT kick).
Truman’s Nathan Ingle recovered a fumble at the Patriot 1 in the second quarter, but Drake busted through for a 44-yard score on the Blue Jays’ next possession. After Eugene Walls returned the second half kickoff 70 yards, Drake scored from 16 yards out to start the second half, his last carry of the night.
Delshaun Higgins’ added 97 yards on seven carries for the Blue Jays, including a 36-yard touchdown on the last snap of the third quarter.
“It was a good night for us,” Raytown coach Kevin Page said. “We got on the board quickly, did what we needed to offensively and the defense kept them out of the end zone. Josh is a great kid, a humble kid who’s complimentary of his offensive line.”
Truman threatened to answer Raytown’s first score, as quarterback Dean Clemons scooted free for a 40-yard keeper into Raytown territory, but a nine-play drive was halted when the Blue Jays stopped fullback Rashad Cole short on fourth-and-2 from the 10.
The Patriots’ next three possessions ended in their own territory on downs, a fumbled handoff and Brandon White’s interception of Clemons. In the second quarter another nine-play drive ended when Cole lost a fumble inside the 10.
Jeremiah Stewart got Truman on the board after that fumble, stopping Markel Robinson’s second-down carry in the end zone for a safety to make it 34-2 with five minutes left in the half.
Truman couldn’t score after the free kick, though. On the last timed play of the half, Clemons’ fourth-down pass from the 12 got intercepted by Michael Young, but offsetting holding penalties negated what would have been a 100-yard touchdown return. On the replay with zero seconds showing, Clemons was stopped well short.
“The first quarter we kind of got shut down, but after that we started moving the ball and giving our defense some time off,” Clemons said. “That gets guys pumped up a little, but it’s the little things like missed blocking assignments or a penalty that kills us.
“Next year we’ll be mostly juniors and seniors, so that’s something to build on. Our offensive line is back, most of our backfield is back, although Rashad’s a senior, and most of our defense is back.”
Stewart finished his senior season in fine fashion, though. In the final minute he took a pitch right, found a hole, bounced off his own lineman and sped 75 yards before being hauled down at the 4 with 8 seconds left. The Patriots called timeout, and Stewart got a pitch left and found the goal line on a second effort with 1 second showing. He then kicked the extra point.
“I asked ‘Coach, can I go in on offense for one play,’” Stewart said. “He said, ‘OK, just give him a pitch.’ I didn’t think it would be open. I ran into a white jersey and somehow I kept my balance.
“I didn’t think they’d put me back in,” he said about the touchdown.
Clemons finished with 120 yards on 23 carries, Cole fought for 70 yards on 22 attempts and Jordan Salima added 35 yards on 11 carries.
“Dean was great,” Webb said. “We weren’t blocking a whole lot for him, and he still got yards. We’ve just got to get more physical. I love the kids that stuck with us this year.”