A red pickup truck sits on the grass in the northwest corner of Peve Stadium, home to the Blue Springs Wildcats football team. It belongs to defensive coordinator Tim Dade, but on Friday nights in the fall, it supplies prime seating for his wife, Pat, along with their friends and family.
The truck has been a staple at Wildcats home games for nearly a decade, and there are no plans to change that anytime soon. But Dade will be joining those spectators in their front-row seats next season, his first in 37 years away from the sideline.
Dade will coach his final game Friday night when Blue Springs battles Rock Bridge for the Missouri Class 6 state championship at 7:30 p.m. inside the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.
And consider the possibility: Ending a football coaching career that has spanned nearly four decades with a title.
“Wouldn’t that be super?” Dade said. “Finishing with another championship — it really would be special.”
It’s already been a special season. Perhaps the best in Dade’s eight-year tenure.
Trying for its second straight state championship, Blue Springs possesses one of the best defenses in the school’s storied history. The team has allowed only 7.3 points per game over the past eight weeks.
Blue Springs has forced 32 turnovers and turned seven of those into defensive touchdowns.
“We’ve had some really good defenses here, but if you go off the numbers and points per game, we haven’t had a better group than this year,” said head coach Kelly Donohoe, in his 13th season with the Wildcats. “This is definitely as good of a defense as we’ve had and maybe the best.”
That all starts with big men up front — a group led by senior Elijah Lee, who won the Buck Buchanan Award last season as the most outstanding linebacker or lineman in the Kansas City area.
A Kansas State commit, Lee is one of three Football Bowl Subdivision prospects on the defensive line. Twin bothers Khalil and Carlos Davis, both junior defensive tackles, have already received plenty of interest from top FBS schools.
The group leads a fearsome pass rush that has totaled 28 sacks this season.
“You have to get the ball out quick,” said Lee’s Summit quarterback Drew Lock, who faced Blue Springs twice this season. “They’re tough. I’ll give them credit.”
The pass rush has certainly made things easier for the secondary. The Wildcats have picked off 18 passes this season, led by senior Kaleb Prewett, another Kansas State commit, who has four.
They play with a certain fire and passion, though their soon-to-be-retired leader doesn’t fit those defensive coordinator cliches.
“(Dade) is a real laid-back guy, but he gets the job done,” Lee said. “He’s not going to yell or scream at us to make a point.”
Not now. But it wasn’t always that way.
“In my first year of coaching, I coached freshmen basketball, and I think in the first two or three games, I had three technicals,” Dade said. “I couldn’t keep myself under control. But I learned I didn’t think very well when I got in that frame of mind. I really learned to calm myself down after that first season.”
A fast-moving 37 years later, Dade stands on the middle of the football field inside Peve Stadium and points toward his new vantage point for watching the Wildcats.
“I don’t know how I’ll react to just sitting and watching,” he says. “That’s going to be one of the toughest parts. But I’m not going to be totally out of the game. Football will always be a part of my life — whether I’m on the sideline or watching from afar.”