The untrained eye watching Blue Springs’ 63-21 demolition of Lee’s Summit in the Class 6 district finals at Peve Stadium might have wondered how Lee’s Summit had averaged 431 yards and 37 points heading into Friday.
The Wildcats defense, a unit not only brimming with blue-chip talent but also sports soundness and discipline to match its size and speed, has had a way of making very good offenses look ordinary ever since ... well, when Lee’s Summit hung 62 points on it while dropping a shootout in last year’s regular season finale.
Lee’s Summit quarterback Drew Lock threw for 3,013 yards and 36 touchdowns while helping the Tigers to a 10-1 record entering Friday, the lone loss being a 42-7 in week 9 also at Peve Stadium, found the going rough against the Wildcats for a second time this season. He finished 16 of 34 passing for 158 yards with two interceptions (after just five picks through 11 games).
“Just great practices this week and great focus,” said safety Kaleb Prewett, who caught three touchdown passes on offense, recovered a first-quarter fumble following a Lee’s Summit reception and returned Elijah Lee’s blocked punt for a touchdown in the second quarter. “We have the best coaches in the state, and they put us in position.
“Drew Lock’s a great quarterback. We knew they would come out just firing the ball, so we had to focus in the secondary. We can live with 5- or 6-yard throws. We just had to eliminate the big plays.”
Instead, the defense created its own big plays.
Prewett’s recovery after receiver Tanner Allin got stripped ended Lee’s Summit’s second possession. When the Tigers tried to maintain possession in the first quarter from their 25, trailing 7-0 and facing fourth-and-one, they didn’t snap the ball as quickly as coach Eric Thomas hoped, and defensive tackle Khalil Davis knifed through to stuff Casey Slaughter in the backfield. Blue Springs’ Dalvin Warmack busted through for his second rushing touchdown on the next play.
“I probably shouldn’t have done that, but I knew we had to take some chances,” Thomas said. “They smelled blood, and they went and got it.”
Gunnar Strickland and Darrius Shepherd recorded interceptions for the Wildcats, the former setting up Prewett’s first touchdown catch from Ian Brown that made it 21-0 in the first quarter.
Prewett’s blocked punt return made it 35-0 early in the second quarter, and Khalil’s twin brother Carlos returned a fumble forced by Cobi Bissel 38 yards for a touchdown when Lee’s Summit tried a jet sweep on its next possession.
In the third quarter Blue Springs faced goal-to-go and kept Lee's Summit out of the end zone.
Lee said he wasn’t exactly looking for a punt block.
“I wasn’t expecting it,” said the defensive end, who like Prewett (and Warmack, for that matter) is committed to Kansas State. “I just ran and stuck my arm out.”
Lee said the Wildcats went to a nickel defensive look to combat Lee’s Summit’s spread offensive set. Getting pressure to take away Lock’s early reads and disrupt his timing also helped.
“We took out a linebacker and went with two safeties over the top, so you can’t do much on either side,” he said. “(The pressure) makes the wide receivers have to try to make a monkey route.”
Lock and Co. had compiled 77 points in week 2 against a Kearney team that hasn’t lost since and plays Fort Osage in Saturday’s Class 5 quarterfinals, and they showed some flashes of their capability with two second-quarter touchdown drives.
Lock, a 6-foot-5 junior who is being recruited by several Division I schools in both football and basketball, lauded his teammates for their play this year, but he also admitted the Wildcats’ defensive prowess presents few windows of opportunity and doesn’t leave room for mistakes.
“The wide receivers I had this year did a phenomenal job,” he said. “They definitely made me who I was, along with the guys up front.
“You saw what we can do, and we’ve blown some teams out, but the margins of error just aren’t there,” he said. “We shot ourselves in the foot, but you’ve got to give credit to them. You can’t say it was just us.”