A large Band-Aid, caked with mud and blood, covered most of Skyler Meyer’s left cheekbone, but that didn’t stop the fierce Blue Springs South High School senior linebacker from seeking out a friend on the opposing team.
Moments after Blue Springs ended the Jaguars’ 3-8 season Friday night at Peve Stadium, Meyers and Wildcats running back Aveion Bailey met at midfield, hugged and talked about their incredible football journeys.
As parents joined them, snapping photos and taking videos on their cell phones, the two stars broke out into ear-to-ear grins, which is one reason the rivalry between two of the most dynamic and successful programs in the state is so special.
“Look at that,” South coach and former Jaguars linebacker great Jon Oyler said, as players from both teams met at midfield for some heartfelt conversation, “that’s special. These kids really do respect each other.”
Blue Springs coach Kelly Donohoe, who was once as assistant at South more than two decades ago, agreed.
“We have so much respect for Jon and his staff, and our kids respect their kids,” said Donohoe, whose 8-3 Wildcats travel to Columbia Rock Bridge Friday night for the Class 6 District 2 title game and state quarterfinal matchup. “That is why this rivalry is so special.
“These players really like each other off the field, and that’s what makes what happens on the field so special. I don’t know of many rivalries where the players spend all this time talking with each other after a big game like this.”
It was a monster weekend for Meyers, despite the loss to the Wildcats, as he traveled to the University of Wisconsin Saturday for an official visit and made a verbal commitment to the Badgers.
But Friday night, all he wanted to do was let Bailey and his football brothers know how special the past four years have been.
“There is nothing like our rivalry,” said Meyers, who had 12 tackles and a sack for the Jaguars. “I’m going to miss playing against Aveion and Conrad Rowley and all those great offensive players. We really do respect them, and we know they respect us.”
Bailey immediately responded.
“Ultimate respect,” said Bailey, who rushed for 263 yards and two touchdowns. “The guys on South and their coaches are what make this rivalry so special. They’re our brothers – and you always want to beat your brothers – but win or lose, you want to shake their hands and tell them ‘Great game,’ when it’s over.”
As an outsider, looking in, I relish the Blue Springs-Blue Springs South football games. I’ve been around long enough that I remember when Oyler was the best high school linebacker in the state.
I remember when Donohoe wore blue and green – although, he still looks exactly the same – and created some offensive schemes that resulted in plenty of memorable Jaguar wins.
I saw parents from each team barbecuing and tailgating in the parking lot, and marveled at the talent on both sides of the ball.
As I approach my 65th birthday, people keep asking me, “When are you going to retire?” I just tell them, as long as the Wildcats and Jaguars keep providing memorable moments under the lights on Friday nights in the fall – NEVER!
– 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