Kelly Donohoe recalls the precise moment he first heard about Elijah Lee transferring from St. Joseph Central High School to Blue Springs.
“Shep (Darrius Shepherd) and some of the guys were talking about Elijah,” Donohoe said Tuesday morning following 31st annual Simone Awards ceremony. “They were saying he played some football and was a decent basketball player.
“I think it took us one, maybe two practices to see what a special talent he brought to our program.”
Lee, the defensive end who played such a big role in the Wildcats becoming the first area team to win back-to-back Class 6 state titles, won his second-consecutive Buck Buchanan Award in front of his fellow students in the Blue Springs gymnasium.
“I guess the Cinderella story comes to an end today,” said Lee, who helped the Wildcats enjoy a 27-1 mark over the past two seasons, including a 14-0 record this year. “Today, for the first time, it's really hit me that we're the two-time state champs. I was wondering when it would hit me, and it happened this morning. When my family moved to Blue Springs, I had no idea what to expect.
“I never thought about an honor like winning the Buchanan Award and never thought about back-to-back state championships. Those things don't happen to a kid who moves to a new school when he's a junior. But they did to me, and I am so thankful to be a part of Blue Springs High School and this football program.”
Lee finished this season with 83 tackles, including 37 for losses. He had 11.5 sacks and picked up a memorable fumble and returned it for a touchdown in a 42-35 win over Class 5 state champion Lee's Summit West. He also had an interception return for a score.
“Someone from the (Simone) committee told me I had one of the highest voting totals of any player to win the Buchanan Award,” Lee said. “When you think of all the great defensive players in the area – just think of all the great players on our team – that makes this even more special.
“And there were so many things that made this season so amazing. We had Joey (Butler, the late pastor and spiritual leader of the Wildcats who has honored by the team wearing JB on their helmets), Dalvin had the great year and became the first player to win back to back Simone Awards and we were like a family out there.
“We were like brothers, and we were going to do anything we had to do to win that second state championship. And now, today, it feels like it's all over and that it all happened. It's not some dream, it's real and I wish I could tell you how special that feels.”
Shepherd was a finalist for the Otis Taylor Award as the best receiver or end in the metro are for the second straight year but again lost out, this time to Lee’s Summit West senior Monte Harrison.
SMALL-CLASS AWARDS: A pair of Oak Grove players were finalists for the Fontana Award for the best small-class player and the Bobby Bell Award for the top small-class lineman or linebacker, but neither landed the trophy.
Panthers junior running back Aaron Graham was a finalist for the Fontana after rushing for more than 1,500 yards, but Pleasant Hill quarterback Josh Shewmaker claimed the award.
Panthers senior linebacker Ethan Fugitt was a finalist for the Bell, but the award went to Kansas City (Kan.) Piper junior linebacker Colton Beebe.
WRISINGER HONORED: Longtime area broadcaster Tony Wrisinger, the co-host of the Sideliner Sports Sonic Locker Room show and the co-creator or Vision Sports, which broadcasts all Blue Springs and Blue Springs South home football games on KCWJ 1030 AM, was named the winner of the Gordon Docking Media Award. It is given to an area media person who helps promote high school football in the metro area.
AREA PLAYERS NAMED TO ALL-SIMONE TEAM: Several Wildcats were also named to the All-Simone Team Tuesday. Kaleb Prewett, Khalil Davis, Darrius Shepherd, Warmack and Lee represented Blue Springs. Other area members who were part of the team are Blue Springs South linebacker Josh Watson, Oak Grove’s Fugitt and Graham and Fort Osage senior linebacker Nathan Iloilo.