It takes a resilient team to march on and continue a winning tradition after graduating key seniors from a high school football state championship football team, not to mention the pressure that comes with moving up into a larger classification.
Blue Valley appears to be just that team.
Blue Valley, on Senior Night, posted a 30-13 victory against Eastern Kansas League rival Blue Valley West on Friday night to improve their record to 2-0. The Tigers, Kansas Class 5A defending state champion who moved up to Class 6A this season, notched a shutout against Shawnee Mission Northwest last week.
“We have unbelievable respect for their program and their kids are friends with our kids,” Blue Valley coach Eric Driskell said. “I’m just really pleased with the victory because they aren’t easy to come by, and in Week 2 this gives us something to build on.”
It helps that Blue Valley returns Division I talent such as offensive and defensive tackle AJ Harris, who is committed to the University of Missouri. He is the spark plug for a talented defense that, on Friday night, forced four turnovers and recorded seven sacks in the victory.
“They played a much more physical brand of football that we just aren’t ready to play yet,” Blue Valley West coach Scott Wright said. “It was pretty evident.”
Blue Valley’s defense started strong, forcing a fumble on the first play of the game. That led to the game’s first touchdown, when Blue Valley’s Colton McCumber completed a 22-yard pass to Braydon Huschka on the Tigers’ first play from scrimmage.
Blue Valley West settled down on its next possession and answered with a 34-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Zev Mallin to Luke Curtis, after the Jaguars started that drive on their own 23-yard line. BV West went for a two-point conversion, but failed. Blue Valley led 7-6.
From that point, it was all Blue Valley for the rest of the first half. The Tigers overcame a fumble and scored three more touchdowns, including two on runs of 68 or more yards.
Among those Blue Valley first-half fireworks were a 15-yard touchdown run by AJ Totta, a 70-yard run by McCumber and a 68-yard interception return for touchdown by Gannon Cornley. Those scores gave Blue Valley a 27-6 lead at the half.
Blue Valley West suffered a scare when Mallin sustained an apparent leg injury late in the first half and did not return. He was replaced by Nathan Wiles. After the game, Wright said Mallin’s injury was not serious and the lopsided score was a factor in his not returning to the game.
“We don’t think there’s anything there,” Wright said. “With the score there is no reason to do something like that.”
Wiles looked rattled on the first possession in the second half and fumbled the ball, but he bounced back on BV West’s next drive with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Blaise Gammon.
Blue Valley capped its victory with a 24-yard field goal from Sam Vergillito, who also kicked three extra points.