Raymore-Peculiar coach Tom Kruse has spent the past few weeks putting his football team back together.
He finally saw tangible signs of progress Friday when the Panthers scored a 37-14 road victory at St. Joseph Central, the team’s first win since knocking off Belton to open the season.
In between, Kruse had to deal with a rugged schedule and disciplinary issues that thinned his squad.
“We’ve dealt with some things,” Kruse said. “It’s been a difficult time for us and we’re trying to rally and become a team again. You deal with adversity a lot in life and it’s no different in football.”
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Kruse wouldn’t go into detail about the disciplinary problems, but they occurred before Ray-Pec’s second game of the season against Lee’s Summit North — a 65-27 loss that was followed by lopsided losses to Lee’s Summit West and Rockhurst with a reshuffled roster.
“Anytime you lose some key players, it forces some other guys to get ready,” Kruse said. “You’ve got guys who have played on Monday nights (in junior varsity) and on Friday nights it’s a lot different. It’s been an adjustment for us, but I think we’re going to be OK.”
Some of the players disciplined last month have been let back on the team, Kruse said, refusing to say how many initially were removed. He expects more to return in future weeks.
Closer to full strength, the Panthers (2-3) used a balanced attack — quarterback Noah Durham completed 10 of 17 passes for 146 yards with two touchdowns and running back Chris McKinzy Jr. rushed for 108 yards on 12 carries — in thumping St. Joseph Central (1-4), which had lost two games by two points or less.
“The biggest thing is we executed,” Kruse said. “We didn’t turn the football over, we were efficient offensively, both running the football and throwing the football. And anytime you can hold a team to under 14 points in high school football, you’re having a pretty good night.”
St. Joseph Central took a 7-0 first-quarter lead, but Ray-Pec cut the lead to 7-6 on a 1-yard Durham touchdown run early in the second quarter.
The Panthers took the lead for good on a 27-yard Brett Felz field goal and Brandon Carvan provided more breathing room with a 4-yard touchdown run on the next possession.
St. Joseph Central turned the ball over on downs near midfield in the closing seconds of the first half, setting up a two-play scoring drive capped by Durham’s 33-yard touchdown toss to Cameron Staley for a 24-7 lead at halftime.
“That was a really key time in the game,” Kruse said. “We really captured momentum there.”
Je’Von Williams added a second-half receiving touchdown and Hayden Smith scored on the ground as Ray-Pec extended its lead.
Now, the Panthers turn their attention to Blue Springs South, who will be their opponent in tonight’s homecoming game at Panther Stadium.
The goal, according to Kruse, is to build on last week’s victory and become a team to be reckoned with late in the season.
“We’re rallying, we’re becoming a team again,” he said. “And those kind of things can set us up for success down the road.”