Kole Wagener wondered what it would be like to play against “the big boys.”
The Grain Valley linebacker found out Thursday night at Blue Springs South High School as he was part of a solid defensive effort that led the Missouri all-stars to a convincing 17-7 victory over their Kansas counterparts in the 26th annual Papa John’s Missouri vs. Kansas All-Star Football Game, presented by the Greater Kansas City High School Football Coaches Association.
It was the seventh win in a row for the Missouri all-stars, who dominated in all phases.
“It was all I expected and more,” said Wagener, who had two tackles behind the line of scrimmage. “I wanted to play with the big boys, and I got that chance tonight.”
The only drawback to the game was his all-star jersey, a memento he wants to keep for a lifetime.
On the back of the jersey, his name is incorrectly spelled “WAGNER.”
“Coach (Bryan DeLong) told us if any of our names are misspelled, to give him the jersey and he’ll make sure it’s spelled right,” a grinning Wagener said after posing for photos with family members who attended the game.
“I really want to keep the jersey I played in, so we’ll see what happens with the name spelling thing. I’ve been wondering for the past couple of weeks what it would be like to play in a game that has the best players from both side of the state and I found out tonight – it’s amazing!”
His Grain Valley teammate, Cody Richardson, felt the same way.
“I’m going to play football at Missouri Western and I told them I was asked to play in the all-star game and they said, ‘Don’t get hurt,’” the tight end said with a chuckle. “I know some guys going to college who couldn’t play in the game and I feel bad for them because this was an amazing experience.
“Playing with Kole, my teammate from Grain Valley, and all the other Missouri all-stars is something I’ll never forget. We talked all week about how big it was to keep the streak going, and we were able to do it tonight.”
It took a while for the Missouri offense to get hot, as the game was scoreless going into halftime.
Missouri put 14 points on the board in the third period with a touchdown from both sides of the line. Center’s Cristian Cox scored on a 68-yard touchdown reception. Soon after, Center linebacker John Taylor returned an interception 36 yards for a score following a tip by defensive lineman Deonaven McKinzy.
Parker Sampson kicked both extra points and added a 25-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
The lone touchdown for Kansas came on a 9-yard pass to Israel Watson late in the fourth quarter.
“We went into the half confident that we could score in the third period,” said Blue Springs South offensive lineman Bryce Greenwood, who was cheering from the sidelines on both Missouri touchdowns. “We knew the team that wanted it more was going to win the game.
“Even though it was scoreless at the half, we knew we could score some points, and we did. And winning on our home field, in the last high school game I’m ever going to play, is as special to me as winning state in 2015.
“This is a huge game, a huge win and I am proud to be a part of the Missouri team.”
So was Blue Springs defensive back Stephen Benson, who starred in man-to-man coverage from his cornerback position all night.
“When I was a kid, I went to the all-star games and dreamed about playing in one after my senior year,” said Benson, who posed for photos with many of his Wildcat teammates after the game. “I’d see Blue Springs players out on the field and dream about being one of those all stars, and tonight my dream came true.”
As the final seconds ticked off the Larry Stewart Memorial Stadium clock, Benson hopped up on the Missouri team bench and encouraged the crowd to join in on the celebration.
“That was so cool,” Benson said. “I dreamed about this, and this is even better than what I thought it would be like. It was one of the best moments ever. And even though it didn’t happen at our stadium, it happened in Blue Springs, and that made it even more special.”