Blue Springs football coach Kelly Donohoe stood stone-faced in the middle of Peve Stadium as members of the Golden Regiment Marching Band set up props for a post-game performance following Friday night’s 22-17 loss to Fayetteville, the two-time Class 7 defending state champions from Arkansas.
He had just watched his No. 1 Missouri-ranked Wildcats let a late 17-13 lead slip away on a laser-beam, fourth-down touchdown pass from Darius Bowers to Frank Morgan that covered 28 yards.
Blue Springs’ Nick Hessefort blocked the extra point, which meant the Wildcats still had some life as they trailed just 19-17 with 3:59 left in the game.
But the Blue Springs offense sputtered and the Bulldogs added a 23-yard Huxley Richardson field goal to make it 22-17 with 1:51 left in the fourth quarter.
The Wildcats made two first downs and had the ball near midfield when Bulldogs cornerback Cemari Dobbins picked off a Chase Donohoe pass to seal the first win of the season for the Arkansas powerhouse.
“The fourth-down touchdown pass was just huge, the biggest play of the game,” Donohoe said, “but they made a lot of little plays, small plays, that added up to a big win. This is like a kick in the gut and our guys have to learn from this.
“No one in this locker room wants to feel like this again this season.”
The Wildcats pride themselves on game planning, spending hours watching film of that week’s opponent, yet there was little game film to watch of the Bulldogs because this was their first game and they have a different coaching staff from last year.
“We pride ourselves on how we play on Friday night because of the preparation we make during the week,” said two-way lineman Daniel Parker, who had two sacks in the game. “We didn’t have any game film of them, and they had game film of our first two games.
“I’m not using that as an excuse. They beat us, and their quarterback is a player you’re going to see play for a Division I team, but I think it might have been a different game if we could have prepared from watching film from this season.
“But they’re a tough team, and they came up here to our place and beat us. Now, we have to learn from this and not let it happen again – and I don’t think it will because we will be so well prepared for every (conference) opponent we play the rest of the season.”
The Wildcats not only lost the game, they lost star running back Cade Musser, who left with a shoulder injury at the 2:14 mark of the first period.
He watched the rest of the game with his right arm in a sling.
“I’ll be back,” Musser said after the game. “I can’t let this keep me from playing. This season means too much to me.”
Without Musser, the running game stalled (35 carries for 113 yards), forcing Chase Donohoe to throw the ball 29 times (12-29-166 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions).
“Our game plan was to run the ball, but we lost a lot of our running game when Cade got hurt and Aveion (Bailey, who missed most of last season with a broken ankle) hasn’t played in nearly a year,” Kelly Donohoe said.
“We like to establish our running game, then pass the ball, and we weren’t able to do that tonight.”
Musser scored Blue Springs’ first touchdown on a 10-yard run (the 2-point run failed) and Sam Knowlton added a 22-yard field goal. The Wildcats received two points on a safety, following an errant snap on a punt, and Donohoe had a 3-yard touchdown pass to Tre’ Wheaton.
Bowers finished the game completing 21 of 37 passes for 291 yards two touchdowns.
“Give all the credit to Frank on that (fourth-down) pass because he made it happen,” the modest Bowers said. “That’s a great Blue Springs team and it’s an honor to come up here and play them and go home with a win.”