Staley quarterback John Raybourn placed the football in the stomach of tailback Julian Ross, and Ross darted right, directly behind a pair of pulling offensive linemen. The ensuing steps sent him into the secondary before a cutback move placed him face to face with a safety.
Ho, hum. In one swift move, Ross lowered his shoulder, bowled over the defender and spun to his left.
The touchdown run covered 82 yards in all, and it provided Ross with a top highlight in a season full of them. It sparked a signature Staley victory, too.
Never miss a local story.
Staley upended Kearney 28-10 at Kearney on Friday, handing the defending Missouri Class 4 state champion its first loss of the season.
Ross rushed for 295 yards in the game and had four touchdowns. He scored on runs of 82, 53, 1 and 5 yards.
“A lot of coaches have been trying to see if I’m a powerful runner, and I just want to come out every game and prove that,” Ross said. “I think I kind of won that one.”
Ross was half the story.
The Falcons’ defense was the other. Staley, 6-2, entered the evening having allowed 20 points per game. But it set the tone for a reversal in the opening quarter, holding Kearney without first downs on its initial three drives.
Staley recorded six sacks in the game, including three by Zach Elam, who typically plays tight end exclusively but was inserted into the defensive lineup to supplement the pass rush.
“I'm glad I’m back playing both ways — I like hitting people,” Elam said. “On offense, you gotta keep your hands inside, and sometimes it gets a little boring. This spiced it up a little bit.”
Kearney, which is ranked No. 1 in the Class 4 poll, had its moments early. A 46-yard field goal from Hunter Adkison gave Kearney a 3-0 lead in the first quarter, and quarterback Anthony Pritzel entered the end zone unscathed just before halftime to supply the Bulldogs a 10-7 advantage at the break.
It was all Ross afterwards.
The Class 5 Falcons mixed a steady dose of passing plays into their offensive sets in the opening half, but they became one-dimension after halftime.
It didn’t matter. With Kearney stacking the box, Staley still fed Ross, and he responded with three second-half touchdowns behind an offensive line that won the battle up front. Ross has 24 touchdowns this season.
He helped end an 18-game winning streak for Kearney that dated back to Sept. 4, 2015.
“It wakes you up,” Kearney coach Greg Jones said. “We can’t be walking around throwing a pity party because we have a huge game next week.”