Friday night brought a taste of late November in the middle of October, and maybe it was the unseasonably cold temperatures that caused Raymore-Peculiar to get off to a sluggish start in its showdown with Platte County.
Like an old diesel engine, the Panthers were running hot and normal by the end of the first half, using a slew of big plays to jump to a big lead and cruise to a 47-7 victory at home.
Senior running back Gabe Shanklin got the party started in the final minute of the first quarter, turning a simple draw play on 2nd-and-18 into a scintillating 69-yard touchdown jaunt.
“When I see a lane, I do not change direction. I stick with it,” Shanklin said. “They split the Red Sea, I stayed in my lane, broke a couple tackles, and made a play.”
As it turned out, that spark was all the Panthers (5-2) needed to get going.
Junior defensive back Martwan Grant-Coody intercepted a tipped pass three plays later.
Ray-Pec, smelling blood, struck on the ensuing play. Quarterback Conrad Hawley connected with Luke Grimm for a 41-yard score.
That duo ended a marathon second quarter exactly the way they started it. The Panthers, out of time outs, seemed content to run out the clock until a late completion gave them the ball at midfield with enough time to run one or maybe two good plays.
Hawley chucked the ball down the middle of the field as the clock wound down, ostensibly to give one of his receivers a chance to make a play.
Grimm was up to the challenge. He cut across the field, leaping to catch the ball between the hash marks. When he landed he simply motored to the far pylon, outrunning the Platte County defense into the end zone to give the Panthers a 30-7 lead with 2 seconds remaining in the half.
As for the rest of the Ray-Pec offense, most of it belonged to Shanklin. He followed the hole when it was there, and successfully improvised when it wasn’t, running for more than 200 yards and three touchdowns. He picked up 161 of those yards in the first half, as the Panthers were building their advantage.
An apparent ankle injury late in the second half only slowed Shanklin for a play. He quickly returned, and helped salt the game away in the second half with feet quick enough to pick out a hole and legs powerful enough to finish every run with authority.
Platte County (5-2) entered Friday on a four-game winning streak, the Pirates’ only setback coming in a week-2 loss to Park Hill South.
On Friday, the Pirates initially responded in the second quarter after Ray-Pec took a 14-0 lead. Dayton Mitchell hauled in a 22-yard touchdown pass from Christopher Ruhnke on 4th-and-6 to pull Platte County back within a touchdown.
That would be Platte County’s only highlight of the evening. The Ray-Pec defense stifled the run, turning the Pirates one dimensional, and the Platte County passing game simply couldn’t keep pace.
Things don’t get any easier for the Panthers in the final two games of the regular season. They finish with road games at Lee’s Summit North and Lee’s Summit West, two powerhouses that might turn out to be their toughest tests of the season.
If Friday is any indication, the Panthers are up to the challenge.