Aveion Bailey could have had one of those monster games that left everyone talking about the junior running back following Saturday’s 34-14 Class 6 state semifinal win over Park Hill.
But monster games aren’t important to the Wildcats’ leading rusher.
Winning – now, winning – that’s another matter.
“All I care about is winning – and helping us get to state and winning a championship,” said Bailey, who leads Blue Springs with 963 yards and seven touchdowns on 170 carries (5.6 yards per carry) despite missing time early in the season because of injuries. “If I have a big game and it helps us win, that’s great – but all I want to do is contribute to a win.”
He had 150 yards on the ground against the Trojans, but an 80-yard touchdown run was called back on a holding penalty and he was shoved out of bounds on the 3-yard line following a 77-yard carry that saw him burst through a seam in the line and turn on the afterburners as he raced down the sideline.
“I was watching Aveion after that 77-yard run,” Wildcats secondary coach Matt Marble said. “Most kids, after a big run like that, would want to remain in the game and get the touchdown.
“After the run, Caleb Marquez got the ball and scored while Aveion was on the sidelines. And Aveion pumped his first in the air and started jumping up and down, celebrating. He was so happy for Caleb.
“He’s just a great teammate and a great kid. He’s been such a difference maker this season.”
Late in the season, two members of the Wildcats chose to leave the team. That left the bulk of the running game on Bailey’s broad shoulders, and he welcomed the challenge.
“Whatever it takes, I’m there,” Bailey said. “I’ve never been the big dog – but if they need me to be the big dog, I’m ready!
“We’re a band of brothers, and we’ll do anything for our brothers. If they need me to block, I’ll block. If they need me to play defense (a role that has diminished now that he is carrying the load in the backfield, although he has eight tackles, a tackle for a loss, a sack and an interception from his outside linebacker position), I’ll play defense.
“In fact, I love playing defense and dishing out some punishment.”
Yet coach Kelly Donohoe said Bailey dishes out his own unique style of punishment every time he carries the ball.
“Aveion is such a physical runner,” said Donohoe, who is excited about having Bailey in the backfield in the state title game Saturday against Christian Brother College of St. Louis after having the then sophomore back on the sidelines at last year’s state championship with a broken ankle.
“When they put eight and nine guys in the box – like Park Hill did Saturday – he can just burst through that line. Our guys up front do a great job, because they know that all they have to do is give Aveion a little seam and he’ll do the rest.
“With him and big ol’ Caleb in that backfield, they’re like the bruise brothers. And when he gets going, not many defenders are going to be able to tackle him. He’s a special athlete, a special running back and we’re so happy to have him healthy this season.”
Now, he has the chance to be in the spotlight in the biggest game of the season.
“I don’t care about that,” he said. “I’m just excited for the opportunity to play in the state championship game. I can’t wait for Saturday.”