Liberty and Staley have never played a varsity football game against each other. Ever.
They picked a good time for their first meeting. The Blue Jays and the Falcons - the top two seeds in the bracket - will face off in the Class 5 District 8 championship game at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4, at the North Kansas City Schools District Activities Complex.
Early in the season, it looked like these two teams were destined to meet in this game. Both cracked the top five in the state polls and appeared to be the top two Class 5 teams not only in the Northland but the entire Kansas City area.
Although both teams have encountered some speed bumps along the way, the much-anticipated matchup has materialized. Staley (8-2 and ranked No. 6 in the state polls) reached the final by holding off a feisty Liberty North team, 25-14, in last week's semifinal game, while Liberty (7-3) had a much easier time of it against St. Joseph Central, 34-7, after three unanswered touchdowns in the fourth quarter turned the game into a rout.
Fast forward to this week, and we have the matchup we envisioned some two months ago. And it looks like it could turn out to be a dandy of a contest.
There's no question that Liberty will use a heavy dose of 2,000-yard junior running back Robert Rawie in this game. However, based on the fact that Staley's front seven is so good, I'm not sure the Blue Jays will be able to just to run the ball play after play all night long and find success.
Junior quarterback Thomas Henrichs must help open up the running lanes by getting the passing game going. Staley can be beaten deep. Liberty's ability to use the play-action passing game could be the single biggest key in the contest.
If the Blue Jays can't keep possession of the football and score, they will put the defense in a bad position against a capable Staley offense. Senior running back Julian Ross, who has gone for nearly 1,800 yards on the ground this season, is the Falcons' biggest weapon. His availability is uncertain after sitting out the final three quarters of last week's game with an injury, but Staley still has other big-play athletes in QB John Raybourn and WR Rod Criss.
This will mark Liberty's biggest game in several seasons. After all, the Blue Jays have more wins so far this season (seven) than the past two combined (six). To be honest, this is just another game for Staley, which is playing in its fourth district title game in the past five years.
I expect to see plenty of offense in this one - there's just to much talent on that side of the ball for both sidelines. Both teams very well could score 30 points each. However, if Ross is limited, I could see Staley staying conservative which may keep the score down a bit.
Either way, I expect a competitive game that will not be decided until the fourth quarter. Liberty had trouble closing out tight games against state-ranked teams Platte County and Park Hill South earlier this season, and this one will be a similar challenge.
Staley's familiarity and comfort with the big-game atmosphere may turn out to be the difference. And any close game will likely be effected by special teams, which has not been a strength for Liberty this season, namely the extra point and field goal kicking.
PREDICTION: Staley 34, Liberty 30