While Blue Springs South missed a chance to keep Raytown down when it had seized momentum and built a two-touchdown lead in the third quarter, ultimately the host Bluejays simply made one more big play than the Jaguars.
Running back Messiah Miller took a screen pass untouched for a 69-yard touchdown with 10 seconds left, lifting Raytown to a 41-34 season-opening win over South at Ted Chittwood Stadium.
South had tied the game just 18 seconds earlier when junior quarterback Max Conard connected with sophomore Isaac Tauai for a 20-yard touchdown and Shane Harper kicked the extra point.
Just 40 seconds prior to that, Raytown had gone ahead 34-27 when junior quarterback Joe Campbell scrambled left and found D'Vontae Key for a 15-yard score, capping the Jays' comeback from a 27-13 deficit.
Campbell finished 26-of-44 passing for 455 yards and five touchdowns.
“Their coaching staff did a great job,” South coach Jon Oyler said. “Their quarterback scrambled around and made some plays, and they've got some good receivers.”
Oyler's team made its own big rally earlier in the game.
Trailing 13-0 in the second quarter – Campbell found Key deep for a 92-yard touchdown on Raytown's first possession and tossed a 14-yard score to Desmond Hutson a couple possessions later – South avoided deeper trouble when Trey Vaval intercepted Campbell in the end zone.
Austin Terry, who logged 38 carries for 252 yards, later capped a short 38-yard drive with a 10-yard score with 29 seconds left, making it 13-7 at halftime.
Before Terry's first touchdown, South's possessions had ended with four punts, a turnover on downs inside the Raytown 5 and a deep-ball interception near at the goal line.
Terry rumbled 56 yards for a score early in the third to tie the game at 13, and Jacob McCubbin's interception helped set up Dakoda Kenig's 3-yard score. On the next possession, Conard took a keeper up the middle for a 39-yard TD and a 27-13 lead with 4:46 still left in the third.
Conard rushed for 77 yards on 11 carries and was 5-of-14 passing for 78 yards.
Raytown responded with Campbell's 40-yard TD pass to Hutson, and after forcing a South punt Raytown went 95 yards in 10 plays, ending with Miller's 35-yard run to tie tie the game at 27.
Miller then covered an onside kick, but South's Brady Strickert recovered a Blue Jay fumble. Still, Oyler thought his team missed a chance to maintain control in the third.
“We reacted to a tackle and got a personal foul penalty,” he said, referring to a play before Conard's touchdown. “It felt like we gave them momentum right there.
“(Later), we had to punt and then they got an extra possession with the onside kick. It's hard to emulate that in practice,” he said, referring to the high-bouncing kick the Jays tried multiple times.
South appeared primed to take the lead back after Strickert's recovery as Terry ran 36 yards to the Raytown 24. But the Jaguars turned it over on downs with 4:38 left, setting up the wild finish.
“The biggest thing is we pressed the kids, 'Gotta finish; gotta finish; gotta finish,'” Raytown coach Logan Minnick said. “Last year we started 3-0 and finished 2-5. Our kids were so much more physically prepared down the stretch to play varsity football than we were last year.
“I've got to credit our offensive line…and if Joe can get it to our kids in space, we've got a shot.”