It's not headline making news when the No. 1 ranked Class 6 team in the state enjoys a running clock, however, when three of the Blue Springs Wildcats' six touchdowns are scored by the defense, it's man bites dog news.
“In 37 years of coaching, I've never seen anything like it,” Wildcats defensive coordinator Tim Dade said Friday night at Peve Stadium following a 42-0 district victory over visiting Lee's Summit North. “And the most unusual thing about it is that none of the touchdowns were by defensive backs – they were by a defensive end and two linebackers. This defense continues to get better and better each week.”
Defensive end Elijah Lee returned the first defensive touchdown on a 40-yard return after intercepting a Brett Pierson pass at 1:39 of the first period.
Linebacker Gunnar Strickland then scored the second defensive touchdown as he grabbed a tipped pass at the 41 and streaked to the end zone at 4:32 of the third quarter. That touchdown gave the 10-0 Wildcats a 35-0 lead and started the mercy clock.
The final Wildcat score came when tackle Carlos Davis tipped a Pierson pass in the end zone and it was picked off by linebacker Zach Robinson.
“It's never bad to get three defensive touchdowns,” quipped Wildcats coach Kelly Donohoe. “I've never coached a team that scored three defensive touchdowns in one game. Elijah read the quarterback and picked off the pass, Gunnar got that deflection and Zach made a big head's-up play getting the ball (that Davis) tipped in the end zone.”
Moments after the game ended, Donohoe learned that crosstown rival Blue Springs South defeated Rockhurst 11-8, setting up a Wildcats-Jaguars Cat Clash matchup at Peve Stadium at 7 p.m. next Friday.
“That is a much improved South team from the one we faced earlier in the season,” Donohoe said. “There wasn't a lot of excitement or electricity here tonight – but there will be plenty next Friday. It's going to be a tough, tough game.”
There were plenty of smiles in the postgame locker room, especially among the three offensive-minded defensive standouts.
“I almost had a pick six last year in districts and didn't get in the end zone,” Lee said, “so I wanted to make sure I got in the end zone tonight. Our defense is really playing well.”
Robinson gave the credit to Davis for his score.
“Carlos tipped it and I was there to catch it,” Robinson said. “The defensive line was great tonight. They were basically responsible for all the (defensive) touchdowns. We wanted to make a statement tonight because we didn't play very well the first time we played them.”
Strickland agreed with his teammate.
“We wanted to make a statement,” Strickland said. “The defensive line set up each one of the touchdowns. They're so good they're scary. We wanted to make a statement tonight because we know next week is going to be tough.”
When Strickland found out South won 11-8, he added, “South? It's going to be like a heavyweight fight. It's going to be a great game.”
Dalvin Warmack finished with 123 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries and Ian Brown was 9 of 13 for 135 yards and an 18-yard TD pass to Kaleb Prewett.
Receiver Darrius Shepherd celebrated his birthday by catching five passes for 98 yards and said the win was his best present.
“Winning is always good, but it's extra special when you win on your birthday,” said Shepherd who turned 18. “Now, we have to find a way to keep winning.”
Follow Bill Althaus on Twitter: @AlthausEJC