LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — What looked to be the biggest defensive stand of the game turned out to be a momentum changing series.
Kansas had marched from its 22-yard line down to the Missouri 3-yard line on the second series in the Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association’s All-Star Game, sponsored by BeYounion.com.
Missouri’s defensive line stopped St. Thomas Aquinas quarterback Will Swanson at the 1-yard line to force a turnover with 2 minutes, 31 seconds left in the first quarter on Thursday, June 14 at Pioneer Stadium in Leavenworth, Kan.
Momentum was quickly altered on the very next play.
Lawrence Free State’s Gage Foster got into the backfield and tackled Belton’s Dante Madden in the end zone for a safety.
The defensive score was just the start of the shift as Kansas’ Jamison Phelps, from Olathe South, took the free kick back 70 yards for a touchdown and a 9-0 lead.
The 31-second span between a turnover and touchdown sparked the Kansas squad to a 30-0 victory, snapping a seven-year losing streak to the Missourians.
The shutout was the fourth in the 27 years of the event and the second shutout win for Kansas in the series, which Missouri now leads 14-12. One year, the game wasn’t official due to a cancellation following a storm.
The featured a pair of players from Platte County in Jon Watts and Michael Smith, while Park Hill was represented by Josh Nuttall, Jarrett Ross and Brighton Ramirez.
“It was something special, to be with a group of players from Missouri. It was pretty spectacular,” said Ramirez, who will play football at Iowa Western Community College this fall. “It was like family. Us going against Kansas.”
He wasn’t the first linebacker named Ramirez in the Kansas City area to be selected to an all-star game. His brother, Nick Ramirez, who played at Lee’s Summit West and later signed with Kansas State, didn’t play in this game instead attending an all-star event in Texas his senior year.
Kansas took a 16-0 lead into the break thanks to a 15-yard touchdown pass by Mill Valley’s Brody Flaming to Shawnee Mission Northwest’s Hayden Goodpaster with 10:50 left in the second quarter.
Swanson guided Kansas down the field late in the second quarter, but a field goal attempt with 2 seconds left was blocked by William Chrisman’s Emori Thomas.
Running Aquinas’ flexbone offense worked well for the Kansas squad and the dominant run attack was showcased on the second drive of the second half.
After forcing a turnover on fourth down, a personal foul call on Missouri gave up another 15 yards to Kansas. The home team then ran the ball eight straight times and capped it on a 2-yard keeper by DeSoto quarterback Bryce Mohl with 4:44 left in the third.
That pushed the advantage to 23-0 after Blue Valley’s Jackson Likens booted the PAT.
The scoring was capped when Flaming threw his second touchdown pass of the game with 8 minutes left in the fourth quarter. Scrambling out of the pocket and running toward the Missouri sideline, he threw a pass that got over the Missouri secondary and found St. Thomas Aquinas tight end Joseph Clune.
The 6-foot, 270 pounder rumbled his way down the field, making a cut at the 2-yard line to avoid a tackle and get into the end zone.
Flaming only passed the ball five times but threw a pair of touchdowns.
Kansas ran the ball 45 times for 171 yards and had five players with 20 yards or more on the ground. The balanced offense had two players with eight carries each, two with four, one with five and three with four totes. St. James Academy’s Jack Petz led the way with 42 yards, while St. Thomas Aquinas’ Tristan Davis had 37 yards.
The Missouri offense was stagnant for much of the game, failing to get much traction going. The best drive came in the third quarter. Starting at its own 21, Missouri got a 48-yard passing play from Javion Shelby of Kansas City Central to Rod Criss of Staley and a roughing the passer penalty gave Missouri an extra five yards as Criss made it the Kansas 10-yard line.
The drive stalled out from there with three rushes for minus-6 yards. A pass to Criss on fourth down came up five yards short of the goal line.
In the second quarter, going from its own 12 to the Kansas 40-yard line, Missouri turned the ball over on downs. The drive was kept alive by two pass interference penalties.
Shelby was named the Missouri MVP, rushing for 36 yards and passing for another 48. The rest of the Missouri offense struggled putting up yards, especially rushing.
Outside of Shelby’s performance, the other running backs/quarterbacks ran for a total of 13 yards on 21 carries.
The contest ended when Olathe East’s TyJuan Lewis intercepted a pass at the 2-yard line to thwart Missouri’s last-chance scoring opportunity.
The target of the pass was Watts, who led Missouri with six catches. The Missouri Southern-bound target had 12 yards receiving and had a series where four straight passes went his way — he caught two.
The only other area player on the offensive side of the ball was Nuttall, who played on the line.
The defensive side featured Smith, Ross and Ramirez — all who recorded at least one tackle.
Smith was already preparing for college football — like Park Hill’s Ronnie Bell, who was on the initial roster but didn’t play in this game — and had already moved to Jefferson City to get ready to play for Lincoln.
“It was fun,” said Smith, who had one tackle but played sparingly in the second half after a thigh injury. “I went against the best in the area.”
Ramirez had three tackles, while Ross had 2 ½ tackles, including combining on a tackle for loss.