Blue Springs High School defensive coordinator Derek Wilson walked down the hallway that leads to the Wildcats coaches’ office with that perpetual smile that never seems to leave his face.
As he greeted players, team managers and students, he said, “This is better than Christmas Eve.”
He was referring to the night before the highly anticipated rematch between crosstown rivals Blue Springs South and the Wildcats at 7 p.m. today at Peve Stadium.
The Class 6 District 3 championship game, which doubles as a state quarterfinal, has all the markings of a marquee matchup between the two most successful programs in Eastern Jackson County.
The first time they met in a Suburban Big Seven Conference regular season game, the 9-2 Wildcats came away with a 21-3 win over the 5-6 Jaguars.
“This is one of those games you throw the record books out the window,” Wildcats coach Kelly Donohoe said. “Records don’t mean a thing. There were years we were favored and got upset and years they were favored and we found a way to win.
“It’s just such a great game between two programs that had a lot of success the past 20 years or so.”
South owns three state championships and Donohoe’s Wildcats own four, and appeared in last year’s Class 6 championship game, only to lose 31-14 to Kirkwood.
“We’re doing everything we can, as underclassmen, to make sure our seniors go out on top this year,” said junior linebacker Austin Stuller (please see related story). “Friday is going to be such a big game. It’s such an honor to play in a big game like that – it means so much to everyone in our community.”
Michael Muehlberger, who had a state record four defensive scores in Blue Springs South’s 48-20 come-from-behind victory over Francis Howell, will be playing quarterback tonight as starter Brody Parker injured his knee late in the season and is out for the remainder of the playoffs.
“Michael’s a special player and he’s going to be ready to go Friday,” South coach Jon Oyler said. “He played last week (in a 16-13 overtime win over No. 1 Columbia Rock Bridge) and has been taking some snaps all season. We feel very confident with him at quarterback.”
Oyler, a former defensive coordinator, is working overtime on finding a way to stop the high-octane Wildcats offense.
“They have such a powerful running game, we have to find a way to stop it,” Oyler said, referring to Wildcats running backs Aveion Bailey and Cade Musser. “It should be a great game. When you look back at the last 12 years or so, Blue Springs South, Blue Springs or Rockhurst (which plays at Park Hill tonight) have played for the state championship and we’re all still playing this year.”
Blue Springs leads the overall series 15-10 and has won nine of the last 10 meetings.
“That doesn’t mean anything,” Donohoe said. “I know they’re hoping we show up on the field like fat cats, and we’re not going to let that happen. We have so much respect for Jon and his kids and that Muehlberger kid is an athlete – we know what he’s capable of on both sides of the ball.
“It’s just going to be a great night of football. A game like this is what Friday night under the lights is all about.”
The winner advances to a Nov. 11 Class 6 state semifinal against Park Hill or Rockhurst.