The evolution of the Staley offense derives from the evolution of its quarterback, a high school senior whose teammates have begun calling “Johnny Football.” That would be John Raybourn, who has flipped the Falcons from a run-first offense to one plenty comfortable with beating teams through the air.
On Saturday, in a state championship semifinal at Staley, the Falcons returned to their run-heavy roots. But the football remained lodged in the quarterback’s hands.
Raybourn accounted for four touchdowns — three of them rushing — in Staley’s 54-13 dismantling of Carthage.
Staley (13-0) will face Pattonville for the Missouri Class 5 state championship at 7 p.m. on Nov. 25 in Columbia.
“I’ve had great protection all year, and when those linebackers and safeties drop back, it leaves me a lane to run, and I like to take advantage of that,” Raybourn said. “We hit them with a couple of passes early, so they started dropping back. Then we really started gashing them.”
Carthage (9-4) had allowed only 20 points in its three-game route to the state semifinal. On Saturday, after allowing an early deep ball, it was intent on taking away the Falcons’ passing game.
Raybourn was happy to oblige. He ran often — at times by design and others on scrambles — and topped the 100-yard rushing mark before the fourth quarter began.
He wasn’t the only one to exploit the matchups. Senior J.D. Benbow also scored four touchdowns, his first three rushing. He carried tacklers into the end zone on a 20-yard run that highlighted a dominant third quarter.
Staley outscored Carthage 40-6 over the middle two quarters.
After allowing Carthage to score on its first play from scrimmage — a 78-yard pass from quarterback Zeke Sappington to receiver Arkell Smith — Staley’s defense allowed only six points for the remainder of the afternoon.
The run game took care of the rest.
“The wind was a factor today in the passing game, so we knew we’d have to pound it down their throat,” Benbow said. “When we execute our plays, we’re going to get down the field, and that’s what we did.
“This year was about getting past the the semifinal game, and now that we’ve done that, we gotta go win another game.”
The trip to state is an accomplishment one year in the making. In 2016, Staley also reached the Missouri Class 5 semifinal. It held a late lead before losing a three-point game to Vianney. The second opportunity came exactly 365 days later.
Staley will play for the second football title in school history. The first came in 2011.
“That’s been the fuel to our fire the entire year,” Staley coach Phil Lite said. “It’s been in everybody’s gut. We talked about it a little bit all week. I think everybody was just anxious to get to this game on Saturday.”