The head turning moment of the Blue Vally North High School football season just might have occurred on a Friday night — the second night of October — when the Mustangs reached deep and produced back-to-back touchdown drives to beat undefeated Blue Valley, 28-27.
Blue Valley North trailed 27-10 in the fourth quarter that night, but the Mustangs scored 18 consecutive points, achieved in part by a successful onside kick.
When the clock hit zero and the game ended, Blue Valley North’s football team — a program that had a combined 3-24 record the previous three seasons — had a 4-1 record and was tied with Bishop Miege for the lead in the Eastern Kansas League.
Two weeks later, Blue Valley North is 7-1. The Mustangs beat Shawnee Mission Northwest 45-21 on Thursday night.
And the BV North fans already had plenty to celebrate in the team’s share of the EKL crown with Miege. It was the Mustangs’ first EKL football title since 2003.
“I think everyone has kind of bought in that we are an impressive team and everyone likes to watch us play,” said Blue Valley North senior quarterback Joey Dolan, who threw for both of the late touchdowns against Blue Valley.
Dolan is a key reason for the Mustangs’ turnaround. Entering Thursday night’s game against SM Northwest, Dolan had completed 132 of 198 passes for 1,882 yards and 23 touchdowns this season. His top three targets are Alex Blake, Charlie Brock and Josh Pederson. Each of those three players has accounted for at least 489 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
Dolan and linebacker Carter Howes credit Blue Valley North second-year coach Andy Sims and his intensity in the weight room as a major factor in the Mustangs’ success. Dolan and Howes agree that their football team is bigger, faster and stronger.
The Mustangs also rely on their experience, having returned 31 letterwinners from last year’s squad. Among the veteran players are 13 all-conference selections, including Dolan and Howes, a linebacker who has 40 tackles, a sack and two interceptions this season.
“A lot of us played through the rough years,’ Howes said, “where we didn’t win any games, then won two last year. It has been so much fun playing well every single Friday night and winning some ballgames.”
While the Blue Valley thriller was a marquee victory, Sims said a Week 6 win over Gardner Edgerton was a highlight for him. The Mustangs defeated Gardner Edgerton 42-7 at the varsity level, and the BV North junior varsity, C team and freshman team also defeated Gardner Edgerton that week.
Sims said that this is the first year in five or six years that the BV North football program has been able to field a varsity squad, junior varsity team, C team and two freshman teams.
With football numbers up across the board in the Blue Valley North program, Sims said it gives the Mustangs a chance to get kids involved with the program earlier and maintain the excitement surrounding his team’s success around school.
“They might have been saying the right things, but until it happens, it’s just hard,” Sims said. “You can’t duplicate that in practice or training camp or a speech. Sometimes it just has to happen.”