Staley and Kearney entered Friday night’s showdown at NKC District Stadium on a collective 13-game winning streak — a showdown between two top-three teams in their respective classes.
It was supposed to be a hard-hitting game between rivals separated by a few miles on I-35.
It wasn’t even close. Staley was the definition of dominant in a 42-0 victory over the Bulldogs that featured a running clock in the second half.
The Falcons (8-0) started the game with an 80-yard touchdown drive, and simply never let Kearney (6-2) breathe after that.
“This was a dominating performance on our end, and I think a lot of things clicked,” senior tight end/defensive lineman Zach Elam said. “We weren’t perfect. We had a lot of penalties and a lot of mistakes that were made, but overall, it was a good, dominating performance.”
Elam wasn’t bragging on this night, merely stating a fact.
The Falcons had a whopping 358-to-19-yards advantage in total offense in the first half. Quarterback John Raybourn paced the offense with 271 passing yards and two touchdowns, completing passes to seven different receivers. Rod Criss II led the receivers with six catches for 96 yards and a score.
Raybourn also ran for two touchdowns on his only two carries of the game.
“Early in the year we showed some good plays, but we never clicked on all cylinders,” Raybourn said. “Tonight we did. We knew they were a quality opponent, but we know we have a good team this year. And we just wanted to prove that. There’s a lot of talk going on, saying we’re overrated, so we just wanted to show everybody wrong.
The Staley defense held Kearney to minus-25 rushing yards, and only two first downs in the first half. The Bulldogs never managed to get within 10 yards of midfield.
“We feel like we had exactly how they were going to line up against us, and we’ve got some pretty good weapons out there,” Staley coach Phil Lite said. “You can’t be able to double one, you’re going to give something up. Our kids came out with great focus on senior night, against a quality opponent, and we were just able to get things rolling.”
The Falcons will start pursuing their second state title after next week’s regular-season finale. It’s a tough road, but one Staley is prepared to travel.
“We’ve been battle tested. We played Platte County, Blue Springs, Fort-O (Fort Osage) and (William) Chrisman,” Lite said. “… We’re constantly talking about getting one percent better, each and every week. We’ve got some things we can work on, don’t get me wrong, but it was an outstanding team effort.”