Cat Clash II bore much more resemblance to the first edition than Blue Springs football coach Kelly Donohoe anticipated – and far too much for Blue Springs South’s liking.
Simone Award running back Dalvin Warmack put on a scintillating performance behind his offensive line, and the Blue Springs defense was as fearsome as ever as the top-ranked Wildcats continued their march toward possible back-to-back Class 6 state championships with a 40-0 thumping of visiting crosstown rival Jaguars in the Class 6 District 4 semifinal at Peve Stadium.
Blue Springs (11-0), which beat South 35-0 in week 7, will host Lee’s Summit, a 24-0 victor over Liberty, in next week’s district finals. The Jaguars, who had won three straight since that first loss to Blue Springs, including last week’s 11-8 triumph at Rockhurst, bowed out at 6-5.
“It far exceeded my expectations,” Donohoe said. “I truly expected a close game. That team (South) was playing very well, and they’re always so well-coached.”
Instead, the Wildcats rang up a 33-0 halftime lead, and Warmack ripped off a 41-yard touchdown run five minutes into the third quarter to enact the mercy running clock. That TD, his fourth of the night, capped a 20-carry, 213-yard night, and he also took a screen pass 26 yards.
“We watched film on them all week, and they’ve definitely improved since week 7,” Warmack said of the Jaguars. “But we came out and played our best game. We’re peaking, but we still have little mistakes to clean up.”
One such mistake came on the Wildcats’ first drive, when a chop block penalty led to first-and-goal from the 23. But Darrius Shepherd held on for a 13-yard slant catch despite a jarring hit, and Warmack eluded Colton Pogue’s grasp in the backfield to free himself for a 10-yard touchdown at the 7:43 mark.
Warmack’s second touchdown came with 1:06 left in the first, when he bounced left and sped down the sideline on a 45-yard run.
On South’s next snap Chris Swingle tried a deep pass into the teeth of a stiff, southwest wind, and the ball settled short into the arms of Blue Springs safety Kaleb Prewett. His interception return set up the Wildcats just 30 yards away.
Blue Springs converted three plays into the second quarter with Ian Brown’s 8-yard fade to Shepherd. Warmack then made it 26-0 two possessions later with a highlight-reel 67-yarder. The Kansas State commit cut back to his left in the backfield, hurdled a player on the ground and sped toward the right side of the end zone.
Donohoe said Warmack definitely has recovered the from the sore ankles and feet that were bothering him midseason.
“He’s taken good care of himself,” the coach said. “The last two games he hasn’t had a whole lot of carries, so he’s a little fresher running the ball right now.”
Just before that 67-yard score, South had started at the Blue Springs 35 after the Wildcats punted into the wind from their 7, but the Jaguars couldn’t gain a first down.
South had a chance to steal a score before halftime when D.J. Brownlee’s interception gave the Jaguars possession at the Wildcat 29. But linebacker Zach Robinson picked off Swingle’s short pass on the next play.
That’s when some rivalry emotions boiled over for a minute.
Afetr a brief skirmish drew an extra unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on South, granting Blue Springs possession at the South 47.
On second-and-10, Prewett pulled up after taking a reverse handoff and launched a pass to a wide-open Shepherd for a touchdown with 25 seconds left before halftime.
“Their players started surrounding it, and our guys did too,” South coach Greg Oder said of the extracurricular activity. “It just looked like it was worst than what it was. I think both teams thought there was a fight and there really wasn’t.”
President atoned for his penalty by intercepting Swingle twice in the second half. His third-quarter pick preceded Warmack’s last touchdown, and his fourth-quarter end zone grab preserved the shutout.
“I don’t know why I got the penalty,” President said. “He both went to the ground, and he grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. Definitely, the two picks made up for it.
“Coach talked to us all week that if there was a game we could lose, a game where we could slip up, this was it. Focus was the main thing.”
Brown finished 11-of-17 passing for 96 yards, and Shepherd had nine catches for 116 yards.
Swingle said the wind didn’t excuse his results through the air (15 of 35, 120 yards), but acknowledged it didn’t help the Jaguars’ efforts to use a short-passing game against the Wildcats’ nasty defense. Swingle stood tall against constant pressure and was sacked once by Elijah Lee.
“That’s a solid D; they’ve played great all year,” said Swingle, who missed the teams’ first meeting while recovering from an earlier ankle injury. “My line protected me against one of the best D-lines. I’m proud to have them block for me.”
“Our defense played alright; we just couldn’t move the ball like we needed to. The wind’s no excuse; it only made a little difference.”