The Blue Springs High School football team, a squad that had won 24 games in a row and back-to-back Class 6 state championships heading into Friday night's season opener against Class 5 power Staley, faced two glaring questions – and answered both emphatically in a 39-13 victory over the Falcons.
Would their receiving corps and secondary – both decimated by graduation – be able to live up the standards of past units?
Yes, and yes.
Junior Terrance Sanders, who caught three touchdown passes in last Friday's jamboree, had a 47-yard touchdown reception and two interceptions to anchor a rock-solid secondary while Wildcats quarterback Ian Brown completed 12 of 17 passes for 279 yards and three scores.
"I think we answered some questions today and I am so proud of my teammates," said Brown, who added a dramatic 12-yard score on a vaulting leap into the end zone.
"How about Ian tonight?" asked Blue Springs coach Kelly Dohonoe, whose team used a 15-point third quarter to blow open a tight 17-7 game at halftime score. "How about that touchdown run? He got so high – they weren't going to keep him out of the end zone. And is Terrance Sanders an athlete, or what? He has the chance to be a very special player."
Added Brown of Sanders: "A player like Terrance only comes around once in a long period of time, and we are all so thankful that he came around while we are here to share it. This was a tough night because of the heat and humidity and he went both ways and never left the field.
"He played a great game. We got off to a slow start, but really picked things up and kind of blew the game open in the third period."
That's because Donohoe and staff made some adjustments heading into the third period.
"We switched a few things up, took care of some early mistakes and really played well the third period," Donohoe said. "That Staley team is good and they are going to beat a lot of Class 5 teams.
"At the half, I knew we had our hands full, but the guys came out and took care of business in the third quarter to make it look like a blowout – which it wasn't."
Another two-way performer for the Wildcats was Cobi Bissell, who took over for two-time Simone Award winner Dalvin Warmack in the backfield while starting in the defensive secondary.
"I was in on about one half of the plays and right now, the gas tank is on empty," said Bissell, who carried the ball 19 times for 122 yards with one score. "I left it all on the field, we all left it all on the field. We have to do that every game to reach the ultimate goal. And that is winning a third consecutive state championship."
If they do, Sanders will likely play a big role in the march to that title.
"It felt good to get out there and contribute tonight," Sanders said. "Ian did a great job getting me the ball and our defense played well tonight. I know a lot of people questioned our secondary and our receivers and coach said we were going to be fine, and we wanted to prove him right.
"They have some good receivers and their two quarterbacks are good – the one runs, the other throws the ball. We knew we had to play a great defensive game, and we weren't great all the time but we were good enough to win and that is all that is important."
Two of the most talked about players in the game were defensive tackles Carlos and Khalil Davis, twin tackles who have committed to play football at Nebraska.
"We knew we had to be in great shape to compete for four quarters tonight," said Carlos, who had the lone sack of the game. "Our coaches keep us in great shape and we have a lot of game-situation drills in practice to get us ready for games."
Added Khalil: "We love this game and we know this is our last year at Blue Springs and we want to do everything we can to make it special. This was a big night, winning our first game, but there are a lot of things we need to work on. And we'll start tomorrow – tonight, we're going to enjoy this one."
Lane Williamson scored on a 7-yard run, Benjamin Hellon kicked a 25-yard field goal, Bissell added a 25-yard touchdown reception and Ross Baker capped a big offensive night with an 82-yard touchdown reception.