There is an adage in football that is as ancient as the game itself that states, “Offense gets headlines, defense wins championships.”
That might have been the case following Blue Springs’ dominating 19-6 victory over Lee’s Summit West in an early-season battle of Class 6 powers that pitted the metro area’s two top teams before a jaw-dropping, standing-room-only crowd at West last Friday.
Yes, the offense got the headline – “Musser’s ugly pass a beautiful thing to Wildcats.”
It was the perfect headline for a game story that highlighted a wounded bird, fluttering 20-yard pass from Cade Musser to Matt Marzolf that gave the Wildcats a 16-0 lead.
While everyone joked and good-naturedly teased the likeable Musser about the score, he simply said, “I don’t have the opportunity to throw that ball if it wasn’t for our defense.”
May I dare say that this year’s Wildcats defense could rival that of the Carlos and Khalil Davis/Elijah Lee led-squad that led Blue Springs to its second championship in a row back in 2013?
“Now that’s saying something, even putting our team in the same sentence as that team,” said University of Missouri commit Daniel Parker Jr., who has starred on the offensive and defensive lines this season. “Today, interceptions started things off offensively and we take a lot of pride in our defense but let’s not make comparisons until we see how this year’s team finishes up.”
He was referring to a pick by Drake Foreman on the second play of the game that led to a 2-yard run by Michael Warmack and an Azaiah Bello theft that set up Musser’s touchdown toss.
“This is my first year at Blue Springs,” said Musser, who transferred from St. Joseph Central High School, “and I’ve never seen a defense as good as this one. If we get a few points each game, we should win a lot of games because teams aren’t going to score many points on us.”
Chase Donohoe, the Wildcats senior quarterback and the son of coach Kelly Donohoe, echoed those comments.
“The win (against West) happened because of our defense,” Chase said. “Wow! I think we have the best defense in the state.”
There would be few arguments after the 2-0 Wildcats (2-0 Suburban Big Seven) held the 1-1 Titans (1-1 Big Seven) – who had 544 yards of offense in a 49-28 win over Blue Springs South in the season opener – to just 61 yards on the ground and 201 total yards.
“They had just 61 yards on the ground?” asked Parker. “That’s unbelievable. I knew we were good, but man, that’s great defense.”
Foreman, a Blue Springs linebacker, experienced déjà vu when he picked off the first pass of the night.
“I predicted it,” Foreman said. “I made that same interception several times during the week in practice and I knew I was going to get one tonight. I didn’t know it would come on the second play, but I knew I was going to get one. Our coaches had us so prepared we knew what they were going to do before they did it.”
Bello then picked off a second-quarter pass and appeared to have a 54-yard pick-six, but a penalty brought the ball back to midfield.
“I was disappointed we didn’t’ get the touchdown, but we eventually scored so that’s all right with me,” Bello said. “We feel like we’re one of the best teams in the state and that Lee’s Summit West is a great opponent and great opponents bring out the best in us.
“From our D-line, to our linebackers to our secondary, we don’t really have any holes, any weaknesses. All we have to do is take care of our position and everyone else will take care of their position and get the job done.”
While Foreman and Bello’s thefts set up both scores, an iconic defensive stand near the goal line preserved the win.
Despite featuring some of the premier backs in the metro area, West could not find the end zone as Khristian Boyd, Parker and Co., stopped the Titans cold on two fourth-and-inches runs in the second quarter.
“It wasn’t just what happened tonight when we stopped them on the fourth and inches,” said Parker, who had a late sack against West, “it was a culmination of blood, sweat and tears from all the hard work we put in this summer and at practice every day. We knew we couldn’t let them in the end zone and made sure that didn’t score.”
Boyd, also a top Division I recruit who plays defensive tackle, added, “There was a lot of talk, and we let our play do all the talking we needed. That defensive stand on their goal line, our fans, the atmosphere – those are things I will never forget and will cherish the rest of my life.”
So will Kelly Donohoe.
“How about the defense down on the goal line?” said the veteran coach, whose Wildcats will face another tough challenge Friday at Peve Stadium from a strong team from Fayetteville, Arkansas. “That was a stand for the ages because it came against a great team. I’m not going to make any comparisons between teams – that’s like making a comparison between your kids – but this defense is very good. It’s tough and salty and the guys like to go out and hit somebody.”
Who knows, maybe one day, it will earn a headline or two – especially following a state championship performance.
– Bill Althaus is a sports writer and columnist for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 816-350-6333. Follow him on Twitter: @AlthausEJC