When the scoreboard clock read all zeros, there were players wearing the Blue Valley High School black uniforms celebrating the Kansas Class 5A football state championship, while the white-shirted Salina South players were on the ground in dejection as their last quarter comeback came up just short.
Blue Valley escaped with a 27-26 victory, and the Tigers were celebrating their sixth state football championship on the field in Emporia. There were tears of joy, happy laughter and hugs for the players and parents taking pictures of the conquering heroes.
Players, parents and coaches rotated around a big circle of Blue Valley fans celebrating the state title. They seemed to stay on the field forever as they wanted to savor the moment.
Senior running back Chance Nelson said, “A state football championship my senior year -- that’s all that matters.”
Senior linebacker Henry McGrew added, “This feels terrific. We worked so hard to get here, its an incredible feeling.”
Senior defensive end Jalen Cooks led the defense with four solo tackles, four assisted tackles and a sack. “This is the best feeling in the world to win state with all my brothers,” he said.
Head coach Eric Driskell has been part of all six Blue Valley state football championships.
“I was a guard on the 1991 team that had Brian Schottenheimer as the quarterback,” he said. Schottenheimer is now the offensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams of the National Football League.
Driskell was an assistant coach for the 1998, 2003 and 2006 state title teams, and in his four years as head coach he has led the Tigers to the state title game three times, winning in 2010 and this season.
“I am unbelievably proud of these senior players to have this as their legacy,” he said. “They have been state champions in every sense of the word.”