H-e-e-e-e's back – not that reigning Simone Award winner Dalvin Warmack went anywhere.
It's just that the best running back in the state hadn't been living up to the preseason hype or his personal expectations this season, even though his Blue Springs football team was 3-0 heading into a big clash at Lee's Summit West Friday night.
Warmack carried the ball 25 times for 211 yards and scored three touchdowns, including the game winner with 5:24 left in the fourth quarter, to spark the Wildcats to a 42-35 victory over the only team that handed the reigning Class 6 state champions a Week 4 loss during that memorable season.
“I had a talk with Dalvin, because I knew he was kind of down,” said friend and teammate Elijah Lee, who returned a botched LSW lateral 79 yards for a touchdown. “I told him tonight was going to be his night. He's done well this season, but he doesn't want to do well – he wants to be great. And he was great tonight.”
No Wildcat sported a bigger smile than Warmack following a game for the ages between the Class 6 No. 1 state Wildcats and No. 1 Class 5 Titans.
“All we've been thinking about for a year was that loss to West last season,” Warmack said. “We won state, but they had bragging rights because of that win over us. Well, we have bragging rights now. This was a great game in front of an unbelievable crowd. Other than a playoff atmosphere or championship game, this is one of the greatest crowds I've ever seen.”
And the players on both sides of the ball responded.
Titans quarterback Thomas Ganaden threw for 450 yards. His favorite target, Monte Harrison caught 14 passes for 174 yards.
But the reception everyone was talking about on the Blue Springs sideline was defensive tackle Carlos Davis' 6-yard scoring catch from Ian Brown that produced a 35-28 lead.
Davis and his brother Khalil are often used in the backfield on goal-line situations to block for Warmack, but coach Kelly Donohoe wanted to mix things up a bit and sent Carlos into the end zone.
“Ian's pass was perfect,” Carlos said. “I just put my hands out, and it was like a loaf of bread falling into a bread basket. I was just so afraid I would drop it.”
Khalil shook his head back and forth adding, “I knew he had it all the way. I have faith in my brother. We love playing defense, but it was fun watching him score.”
While the Wildcats allowed 450 yards through the air, the Titans managed just 31 yards on the ground on 20 attempts.
“We gave up a lot of yards in the air, but we came up with the big plays when we needed them,” said linebacker Gunnar Strickland, who stopped Titans running back DeMarcus Edwards short of a first-down on a late slant pattern.
“That was as big a tackle as I've ever made. It felt good, real good.”
The Wildcats' X-Factor, Darrius Shepherd, maintained his reputation for making the big play with a pick six in the first quarter and he then caught the final Brown pass for a late first down, that allowed the Wildcats to run out the clock.
“Shep's turning into our big-play guy,” Wildcats coach Kelly Donohoe said. “The pick-six was huge, and he gets that first down to help us run out the clock. He's the most unheralded player in the metro area.”