ST. LOUIS — A banner imploring Francis Howell to steal its first state championship ring from Blue Springs’ established collection fell from the front-row railing inside Edward Jones Dome early into the Missouri Class 6 state title game.
By SAM McDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
It was only one play into the second quarter, but nobody bothered to reapply the tape after it lost its grip in front of the student section.
By that time, Blue Springs had already sent a clear message: The question wasn’t if the Wildcats would win, but rather by how many.
The Wildcats outmanned Francis Howell, using four first-half scores to pull away early in a 42-3 victory.
Blue Springs captured its fourth state championship in school history and first since 2003.
“This one is special because it’s been nine years since we’ve won it,” said Wildcats coach Kelly Donohoe, who has been at the helm for three titles. “We’ve had some years where we felt like we had a chance, but we haven’t gotten it done. It’s made this one more special because it’s been awhile.”
The wait for an outcome Saturday was a short one.
Blue Springs, 13-1, needed only a handful of plays to showcase its top talent on both sides of the ball against an overmatched Francis Howell team that knows a little something about long waits. It was seeking its first football state championship in school history.
Truly unstoppable in the opening half, the Wildcats found the end zone on all four first-half possessions — good for a comfortable 28-3 halftime lead that effectively buried Francis Howell, which made a pair of quarterback changes before the clock ticked to halftime.
“We had no jitters really,” Blue Springs quarterback Wylson Lamb said. “We came out with confidence and a little anxiety. If you don’t have anxiety, you’re not human. You gotta have butterflies. But just playing in this atmosphere was enough to get us going.”
The bright lights certainly suited Blue Springs tailback Dalvin Warmack, who capped a head-turning junior season with two touchdowns Saturday, giving him 46 for the year. Running behind a steady offensive line that won another battle in the trenches, Warmack finished with 181 yards on 23 carries.
And he did it all on a bum right ankle.
“He is amazing,” Lamb said. “On Thanksgiving, we had to point out a player who we’re thankful for, and I told Dalvin thank you for being the best running back in the state. His impact is tremendous.”
So was Lamb’s in the final game of his senior season. He snuck in a pair of scores in the opening half. Between those two scores, he threw a strike to Darrius Shepherd for a 28-yard score to highlight the Wildcats’ 21-point second quarter.
That was more than plenty for Blue Springs’ under-the-radar defense, which allowed only 21 points over the final three games.
Francis Howell removed starting quarterback Mike Glass from the game on its third offensive drive in favor of Austin Gates, then re-inserted Glass one drive later.
No matter the Vikings’ signal-caller, they couldn’t escape the pressure of Blue Springs’ fast defense. Elijah Lee and Jason Young each recorded two tackles in the backfield and shared the load on a sack.
Senior Donte Watkins led the team with seven tackles.
“We knew we could be a great defense, but we had times (earlier this season) where we settled for where we were,” Watkins said. “These last three weeks, we got into the mind-set of we had to be better each week or face the possibility of going home.”