While the Blue Springs offensive line eventually gained the upper hand and paved the way for another stellar stat sheet by running back Aveion Bailey, it was a big play through the air that finally tipped the boulder and got it rolling downhill Friday at Raymore-Peculiar.
Koby Mansfield's 54-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter not only tied the game at 7-all, it kicked off a 28-point second quarter as the Wildcats rolled to a 35-21 Suburban Big Six win over the Panthers that was not nearly so close.
Bailey finished with 212 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries – two of those in the big second quarter that gave Blue Springs (4-2, 2-1 Big Six) a 28-7 halftime lead. But Mansfield provided a necessary complement by hitting 5 of 11 passes for 183 yards and two scores. His numbers might well have been better if not for a couple early drops and overthrowing a wide-open receiver shortly before halftime.
Raymore-Peculiar (3-3, 1-2) had claimed the early lead, taking advantage of a quick stop and punt by going 41 yards for a touchdown. Brandon Rayos provided the score with a 1-yard plunge after Grant Miller hit Je'Von Williams for 26 yards on third down.
But with Blue Springs facing second down from its 46 early in the second quarter, Mansfield connected with tight end Michael Schon. When Schon's defender tried for the deflection and missed, the junior had clear sailing for a touchdown. Fredy Romero kicked the tying PAT.
“I'm just proud of the way they competed,” Blue Springs coach Kelly Donohoe said. “I thought we would get something open on play action with (Schon), and we did.”
Donohoe said they know teams will load up the box against Bailey, and they believe have enough talent to get some big plays in the passing game.
“We just have worked really hard on that,” he said.
After Ray-Pec's opening touchdown, the Blue Springs defense buckled down and forced five straight punts before Ziggy Afo's interception late in the second quarter.
Four of those punts went into the wind, and after one of them Blue Springs took over at the Ray-Pec 39. Bailey covered that distance in one play, as he got to the left sideline and shed a tackler en route to the end zone at the 7:31 mark.
The next punt pinned the Wildcats at their 1, but they pushed out for a pair of first downs. On first down from the 21, fullback Nick Wood took a short pass in the flat, juked a defender and got a stellar block from receiver Cooper Willich for a 79-yard touchdown and a 21-7 lead.
“He's just fast,” Donohoe said of Wood, who added 54 rushing yards on seven carries. “He's got great speed, and he's turning into a playmaker for us.”
On their next possession, Bailey found a hole over left tackle and was off for a 71-yard TD run. The Wildcats threatened again after Afo's interception in the final minute, but Romero's 39-yard field goal before halftime was wide right.
“We knew going in their running game was something to hang their hat on, and early on we did a good job against it,” Ray-Pec coach Tom Kruse said. “But then we gave up the big play in the passing game, and that took away the momentum.
“They physically kind of took it to our kids, really on both sides; they shut down our running game.”
Rayos managed 63 yards on 17 carries, but the Wildcats limited Panther quarterback Grant Miller to 11 yards on 10 tries. Miller and Conrad Hawley combined for 12-of-28 passing for 211 yards.
Ray-Pec opened the third quarter with a long drive and had goal to go, but an illegal block penalty stymied the drive and Matt Van Hoecke intercepted Hawley on fourth down.
In the fourth, Bailey's 3-yard touchdown capped a 12-play, 88-yard trek and gave Blue Springs a 35-7 lead with 6:32 remaining.
“That offensive line is pretty special,” Donohoe said. “They're beating people up front, and our defense did a great job, to hold them to seven points, really.”
Offensive lineman Conrad Rowley said he and his linemates prepared hard all week to make sure they had blocking assignments down for Ray-Pec showing a 3-3 stack defense and switching out of it.
“Obviously we're a run-heavy team, but people have got to respect the passing game now,” Rowley said. “I'm excited to see it all come together.”
Miller's 5-yard TD run and Hawley's 17-yard scoring toss to Luke Grimm made the score more respectable for Ray-Pec.
“I think our kids are improving – at the time they need to be,” Donohoe said. “We've got some tough ones down the stretch.”