Sure, coaches and players will tell you they're all big games, and when you play for perennial football powers like Blue Springs and Blue Springs South, every game takes on added importance because you're going to get your opponent’s best shot every Friday night.
But tonight at 7 p.m. at Peve Stadium, the annual Cat Clash is one of those marquee events that has a touch of added significance.
“It's because our guys know those guys,” said Blue Springs coach Kelly Donohoe, whose 6-0 Wildcats are the reigning Class 6 state champions and have beaten South four straight times. “They've played with them or against them since their little league days.
“We have so many big games – Rockhurst, Lee's Summit West, all our conference opponents – but you know that when you play the crosstown rival you better be ready to go.”
South coach Greg Oder, whose Jaguars won the Class 6 state title two years ago, doesn't try to make a big deal out of the annual matchup with the Wildcats.
“It's one game you don't need to hype up,” Oder said. “Our kids want to win. Their kids want to win. It's the game that gives one team bragging rights for a year. You know you're going to have a great crowd and a great atmosphere.”
Blue Springs enters as the top-ranked team in the state – as it has been all season. Blue Springs South is not in the poll but is still garnering votes with its 3-3 mark. South’s only losses have come to ranked teams – No. 7 Lee’s Summit, No. 8 Rockhurst and Class 5 No. 2 Fort Osage. Rockhurst has been the only common opponent so far for the Wildcats and Jaguars. Blue Springs beat Rockhurst 22-7 while South lost 27-6 to the Hawklets.
Records, though, are usually meaningless in this game. When asked about the importance of this week's Cat Clash, Blue Springs senior linebacker Gunnar Strickland said, “It's big. They're all big, but this one is really big. We're the established school. We're not Blue Springs North, we're Blue Springs High School, and we want to prove we're the best school in our town.
“We respect those guys and really like them when we're not playing them. After the game, we'll all be friends again, but it's a battle when we're on the field.”
Senior defensive end Elijah Lee adds, “I moved to Blue Springs from St. Joseph last year and knew the game was big, but I didn't know how big it was until I was a part of it.
“Now, I'm really looking forward to it this year. You want to beat the Jags, especially your senior year.”
Senior offensive tackle Jordan Benson also wants to keep bragging rights for a fifth-straight year.
“It's such a great game. We have a lot of respect for their program, and we hope they respect us,” he said. “It's one of those games you mark on your calendar. It's for bragging rights.”
Blue Springs holds a 10-9 advantage in the series after the Wildcats won the last four meetings, including a 35-14 win last season.
“It's our senior year, and we haven't beat them in something like four or five years,” said South senior linebacker Josh Watson, who has committed to Colorado State University. “You know we work hard every week and prepare for every opponent in the same fashion, but this week is a little bit different. We're playing for bragging rights in our hometown, and that's important to all of us.”
South senior linebacker-turned-quarterback Colton Pogue knows the importance of the game.
“We want to win,” Pogue said, “and they want to win. It's for bragging rights. I haven't been on a South team that's beaten Blue Springs, and doing it my senior year would be special.”