For all of the offensive firepower Blue Springs has shown in 2012 — and it’s certainly a lot — a late standing ovation at Peve Stadium was reserved for the group on the other side of the football.
By SAM McDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
The Wildcats’ defense shut down Rockhurst in the Class 6 quarterfinals Friday night, turning the rematch of an early-season shootout into a grind-it-out 14-11 victory. Blue Springs defeated Rockhurst for the second time this season — though this time in a much different fashion — and will travel to DeSmet for a Class 6 semifinal game on Friday.
A defense that played up its lack of respect earned the topic of conversation Friday night. Finally.
“If nobody wants to talk about us, that’s fine,” senior linebacker Rasheed Hobbs said. “But we’re going to stick with it and keep pouring our hearts out on every play.”
An early play loomed especially large late.
Rockhurst’s best drive was its opening one, but it was also a scoreless one. The Hawklets were stuffed on a fourth-and-goal play from the 2-yard line when Hobbs sacked Ahmad Tyler, who received a low snap.
Blue Springs, 11-1, had six sacks in the game, including three from Elijah Lee.
Hobbs’ takedown proved pivotal after Rockhurst backup quarterback T.J. Green found Zach Nelson for a 69-yard score with 28 seconds to play. The Hawklets, 9-3, added the two-point conversion to pull within three, but their onside kick attempt failed.
“In hindsight, you think, gosh, we should’ve gotten the points,” Rockhurst coach Tony Severino said of his decision to go for the early fourth down. “But I figured our defense could stop them” if we didn’t get it.
For the most part, that was a safe guess.
Blue Springs’ usually potent rushing attack struggled to find its footing. That meant especially tough sledding for running back Dalvin Warmack, who was held out of the end zone for only the second time this season. Warmack finished with 66 tough yards in 20 carries.
A couple of big plays, though, provided the difference. Both came from Blue Springs senior Darrius Shepherd.
Blue Springs quarterback Wylson Lamb hit Shepherd on a go route for a 58-yard touchdown to give the Wildcats a 7-3 lead late in the second quarter. Shepherd later showcased his combination of speed and quickness in the following quarter on a 72-yard punt return to make it a two-score game.
“When they shut down Dalvin, I gotta make big plays,” Shepherd said. “I love making those plays. That’s why I play football.”
And it’s why Blue Springs will continue playing football.
Rockhurst couldn’t match Shepherd’s big-play ability. Its ground game gained only 28 yards in 28 carries.
After settling on Tyler as the go-to signal caller late in the season, Severino rotated three quarterbacks Friday night. None was a difference-maker, combining to complete nine of 25 passes.
“All we heard about was the Rockhurst defense,” Blue Springs coach Kelly Donohoe said. “I think our guys showed they’re pretty good on the defensive side, too.”