Blue Springs made back-to-back trips to the state championship game but had to settle for back-to-back runner-up finishes.
Christian Brothers College High School overcame Blue Springs 31-14 in the Missouri Class 6 football title game on Saturday at Plaster Stadium in Springfield on the campus of Missouri State University. Junior running back Bryan Bradford led a normally pass-heavy CBC offense with 126 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 29 carries.
“I thought No. 3 was a really good back,” Blue Springs coach Kely Donohoe said of Bradford. “We knew he was a good back, but boy, he’s tough now.”
Bradford scored two of his touchdowns in a fourth quarter that saw the Cadets pull off a dream performance.
“For us to get this win this time, everybody is so excited right now,” Bradford said.
Donohoe saw his Wildcats’ season come to an end in disappointment for a second consecutive year.
“We just did not play as well as we’ve been playing. That’s what’s disappointing is to get to this game and make some mistakes,” Donohoe said. “In this game with (CBC), if it was a 10-game series, it probably would be about a 5-and-5 deal, but as we tell our guys all the time, sometimes the other guys have a better day.”
CBC coach Scott Pingel believed the battle of one Kansas City school and one St. Louis school was the perfect way to settle a state championship.
“I talked to Kelly before the game. He thought it was the two best teams in the state, and I kind of agreed with him,” Pingel said.
CBC quarterback Brett Gabbert, younger brother of Arizona Cardinals and former University of Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert, completed 15 of 22 passesfor 144 yards. It was a relatively pedestrian affair for a man who passed for more than 2,700 yards and 33 touchdowns in 13 games this season. Still, Donohoe was impressed with Gabbert’s play against an aggressive Blue Springs defensive front.
“Gabbert throws that thing as well as anybody in the state throws it. He’s a really good quarterback and made some nice plays. Sometimes with the pressure we put on he’s able to elude and still make some plays,” Donohoe said.
CBC made a key defensive stand just before the halftime break that ended in a missed field goal for Blue Springs. The Wildcats had gone on a 25-play drive that spanned 8:29 of game clock. The Wildcats scored no points in spite of the efforts and trailed 7-0 at the break.
“When we get in the red zone, we typically score touchdowns, and I think that was really tough for us a couple of times to get down there and not be able to score,” Donohoe said.
Wildcat senior Cade Musser scored a 29-yard touchdown run with 9:12 remaining in the fourth quarter to pull the Wildcats within three points of the Cadets. But Bradford answered with a 4-yard touchdown run on CBC’s ensuing 80-yard scoring drive with 4:18 remaining in the game to reestablish CBC’s lead and put the state championship out of reach for Blue Springs.
“When we scored to make it 17-14, I felt a lot of momentum on our sideline,” Donohoe said. “To those guys at CBC to be able to drive that ball down the field and score that against our defense, hats off to those guys because that’s the drive of the game for them,” Donohoe said.
In 2016, a banged up Blue Springs squad lost 31-14 to Kirkwood in the state final.
“We saw a Kirkwood team that was just very special last year, so I walked off that field feeling like we tapped our guys out,” Donohoe said. “This is a little different feeling this year where I felt like we had our guys and we didn’t play as well, and that’s the tough thing.”
Blue Springs suffered back-to-back regular season losses to Fayetteville, Arkansas and Park Hill in early September this season. But the Wildcats snapped off nine consecutive wins, including a 34-14 revenge win over Park Hill in the playoff semifinals, to reach Saturday’s Show-Me Bowl.
Blue Springs has won five Missouri championships, with the last coming in 2013, and the Wildcats now have three state runner-up finishes in the history of their program.