When Blue Springs South’s football team first traveled to Rockhurst in late September, turnovers and penalties played a large role in preventing the Jaguars from keeping pace with the Hawklets.
Friday in the first round of the Class 6 District 4 playoffs, it was Rockhurst shooting its own foot, and South’s rock-solid defense made sure the Hawklets couldn’t recover as the Jaguars left Dasta Stadium with an 11-8.
By winning this rematch of 5-4 teams, fifth-seeded South forged another Cat Clash next week at Peve Stadium with top-ranked crosstown rival Blue Springs – not that South coach Greg Oder was quite ready to savor another rematch.
“You could say we are playing our best ball all year,” Oder said. “We’re going to enjoy this for a while.”
Victory for Oder’s Jaguars wasn’t assured until fourth-seeded Rockhurst’s second onside kickoff attempt – an initial fake-and-crosskick try was thwarted by an offsides penalty – squibbed and rolled out of bounds short of the required 10 yards with 1:17 left. Quarterback Chris Swingle, who missed the teams’ first meeting with an ankle injury, took three knees.
While South’s defense yielded 233 passing yards to Rockhurst’s T.J. Green and Ahmad Tyler, that came on 13-of-27 passing, the Jaguars produced four sacks, allowed just 64 rushing yards and procured two turnovers and two clutch stops deep in their own territory.
Rockhurst (5-5), which finished its first .500 season since 1977, also got penalized nine times.
“It feels like it,” Oder said, when asked if Friday might have been his defense’s best performance, “but both sides of the ball we played pretty well.
“It wasn’t all us, I’m sure (the Hawklets) like to have some of those plays back.”
Perhaps the first such play came late in the first quarter, when a 10-play drive stalled at South’s 15 and Matt Beirne hooked his 32-yard field goal try.
With 5 seconds left in the period, Swingle lofted a first-down pass just as blitzing Ezra Boyd blasted him, and 6-foot-7 tight end Kendall Blanton snared the rainbow over Sam Tanner and sprinted 80 yards for a touchdown. Swingle bobbled the extra point snap, but recovered to loft a 2-point conversion pass to an open D.J. Brownlee for an 8-0 lead.
“I thought, ‘OK, we’ll take a 10-yard gain,’” Swingle said he thought when he first saw Blanton’s catch. “He just kept going; no one caught him.”
Rockhurst appeared to retaliate two snaps later when Green took off on a scramble and picked up some downfield blocks for a 73-yard score, but two separate holding penalties nullified that.
On its next possession Jake Simsheuser hauled in a Tyler deep ball and dragged defenders for a 51-yard gain to the South 19. But Tyler’s third-down pass was well behind his receiver and Brandin Dandridge had an easy interception at the goal line. Later, the second of end Wyatt Parker’s three sacks produced a fumble near midfield that Jaguars’ nose guard Cole West recovered.
“We just had a blast defensively,” said Parker, who also stopped Hawklet runners behind the line three times. “We were fired up and ready to go before the game.”
Middle linebacker Josh Watson recorded the Jaguars’ other two sacks, and Blanton, Colton Pogue and Cameron Miller also had stops for negative yardage.
“We just had a different mentality coming in,” Parker said, compared to the September meeting. “There was no pressure.”
With its first possession of the second half, Rockhurst drove to the South 13 in 12 plays before a fumbled snap on fourth-and-1.
South punted away its next two possessions, but starting on its 49 with 6:52 left in the fourth it converted a pair of third downs, the second one a twisting, over-the-shoulder reception by Dandridge for 29 yards. That put the Jaguars at the Hawklet 10, and Savion Cauveren booted a 22-yard field goal with 2:30 left to provide some ultimately crucial points.
Dandridge had dropped a wide-open pass early in the third but made a similarly difficult grab for 26 yards in fourth after Rockhurst had punted down to the 11.
“I knew he was going to get it back,” Swingle said of Dandridge. “Our line did a great job protecting, and Emery (Ester, 16 carries for 52 yards) pounded the ball.”
“I never felt comfortable,” Oder said. “We were hoping eight was enough, as it turned out, it wasn’t. We had a couple long passes that were huge in timely moments.”
Green, the son of former Kansas City Chiefs signal-caller Trent, gave reason for Oder’s discomfort, finding Luke Arbanas and Simsheuser for 30-yard passes to set up his 9-yard touchdown scramble and subsequent 2-point scramble to make it a three-point game.
But after the self-inflicted wounds, the Hawklets were out of bullets.