The Blue Springs football team began the season as the top-ranked team in Missouri Class 6 by virtue of their 2012 championship.
On Friday at the Edward Jones Dome, the Wildcats ended the season in the same spot, capping an unbeaten season with a 35-14 victory over Rock Bridge in the 2013 championship contest.
“We always want to be the hunted and not the hunters,” Blue Springs coach Kelly Donohoe said. “It was 14 weeks of fending people off, challenge after challenge after challenge.”
It was the fourth state championship for Donohoe in five tries and the school’s fifth title overall.
“I am probably more relieved after this one,” Donohoe said. “Every championship is different and special, but I really wanted this one for the seniors. It is not a big class numberswise, but it is a special class.”
It was the ideal ending for seniors such as linebacker Gunner Strickland.
“It is really surreal,” Strickland said. “I remember going to the championship game in 2003, and I just idolized the Wildcats. It is so special to win back to back.”
The back-to-back titles are the first in Blue Springs’ history.
Things started slowly for both teams until one of the Wildcats’ seniors, Darrius Shepherd, took a punt 49-yards for the first score of the game.
“Shep has a knack for the big play,” said Strickland, who made a crunching block on the return. “He had the return for a touchdown last year against Rockhurst.”
Shepherd felt the team needed a big play after struggling early.
“Our plays weren’t working early,” Shepherd said. “I just wanted to make a big play and spark the offense.”
“No player in Kansas City has made as many big plays as Shep has,” Donohoe said. “I feel he is the most underrated player in Kansas City.”
After its special teams got Blue Springs on the scoreboard, the Wildcats rattled off three second-quarter TDs to take a 28-0 lead.
Ian Brown connected with Kaleb Prewett for touchdown passes of 17 and 8 yards, and Cobi Bissell, who took over for an injured Dalvin Warmack, added a 3-yard touchdown run.
“Bissell is a great back,” Donohoe said. “He just has the best back around in front of him. We were not able to showcase Cobi as a running back. He plays every down defensively and he is going to be a great back next year.”
Blue Springs seemed to be in control with the four-touchdown advantage but it had to battle not only the Warmack injury but cramping problems by Shepherd and Prewett.
“That kind of put us in a bind, and you have to credit Rock Bridge for showing a lot of fight,” Donohoe said.
The Bruins tried make things interesting, scoring a touchdown in the final 5 seconds of the first half on an 8-yard pass from Logan Twehous to Zach Reuter. They also scored first in the second half, as Hayden Johnson ran in from 1 yard out after a Blue Springs turnover.
But it took the Wildcats just three plays and just over a minute to regain control of the game. Brown hit Prewett for a 46-yard pass, and two plays later, Bissell scored his second touchdown of the game on a 36-yard run.
“I told the guys after they got to within 28-14 that we needed to change momentum right now,” Donohoe said. “We hit the long pass, which I think changed it, and then we got the long touchdown run.”
The Wildcats’ defense took over from that point. It limited Rock Bridge to just 173 yards of total offense. Antwon President made several key plays in the Wildcat defensive backfield, including an interception inside the 10-yard-line with 4 minutes to play to ice the game.
Blue Springs had a balanced offensive attack, rushing for 202 yards and passing for 165. Bissell had 73 yards on nine carries and Warmack had 69 on 13 tries before his injury late in the first half.
Brown, who had just one incompletion on nine tries in the first half, finished with 11 of 18 for 165 yards. Prewett had five receptions for 96 yards while Shepherd added five for 63 yards.
“Our mission for the year was to go back-to-back,” Shepherd said. “I think we left our legacy.”
Blue Springs finished with a 14-0 record. Rock Bridge finished 8-6.