Dylan Cowling began his senior season hoping to win Blue Springs’ starting quarterback job. But it was a battle he ultimately lost.
So for the first time in three seasons, he moved to the defensive side of the football, his best opportunity to see the field on Friday nights.
The departure from the original plans, he discovered, had a silver lining.
“I was able to get out of the spotlight. It felt like the pressure was off,” Cowling said. “You can just run around and hit people and just have fun. It felt like little league again.”
In the final game of his high school career, the spotlight is back. And perhaps bigger than ever.
Cowling will get the start at quarterback for the Wildcats on Friday in the Missouri Class 6 state championship game. In search of their third title in the past five seasons, the Wildcats face Kirkwood at 7 p.m. at Memorial Stadium in Columbia. It can be heard on KCWJ (1030 AM).
An injury returned Cowling to his former position. After starting quarterback Chase Donohoe broke his foot late in the year, Cowling moved from linebacker to quarterback for the final week of the regular season. He has remained under center for the Wildcats’ playoff run, during which they’ve scored 189 points in four games.
“We never feared Dylan wouldn’t do a great job. Our fear was only that he might be rusty for a few weeks,” said Blue Springs coach Kelly Donohoe, the father of Chase. “We haven’t asked him to do a ton in the passing game, but when we have asked him to make plays, he’s made them.”
The transition featured a uneven start. After not taking any snaps at quarterback for two months, Cowling was inserted into the lineup against Raymore-Peculiar in the regular-season finale. He completed only 5 of 14 passes in a losing effort. He also threw an interception.
It broke the Wildcats’ five-game winning streak and prevented them from polishing off an undefeated conference season.
“He felt responsible,” Donohoe said. “We assured him that it would get better every week moving forward, and it did. That game was not his fault; Ray-Pec outplayed us.”
In the ensuing weeks, Cowling has leaned on his predecessor for guidance. While sidelined, Chase has helped Cowling with his footwork.
Chase has been cleared to play Friday against Kirkwood and might get one series. But the bulk of the responsibility will fall on Cowling.
Well, the bulk of the responsibility at quarterback. In actuality, Blue Springs has tightened its passing playbook after the switch, but it hasn’t affected the offensive productivity. The Wildcats have relied even more on a running game that responded with 1,209 yards and 23 touchdowns in the postseason.
Cowling threw only nine passes in last week’s Class 6 semifinal win against Christian Brothers College. But he maximized the efficiency, recording 126 yards and a touchdown. It’s enough to keep defenses from focusing solely on the Wildcats’ dynamic rushing attack.
And it’s not too bad for linebacker who wanted to stay out of the spotlight.
“It’s crazy when you think about it,” Cowling said. “You go from just trying to mess people up on defense to quarterback, where everyone in the standings is looking at you.”