• Wildcat defensive line living up to hype

  • Before the start of this football season, Blue Springs football coach Kelly Donohoe said his defense had the chance to become one of the best groups in school history.

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  • Before the start of this football season, Blue Springs football coach Kelly Donohoe said his defense had the chance to become one of the best groups in school history.
    Now, that's saying something, when you consider the success Donohoe and his Wildcats have enjoyed over the past 13 years.
    “It all starts up front with the defensive line,” said Donohoe, whose 11-1 Wildcats take on DeSmet in the Class 6 semifinal game at 7 p.m. Friday in St. Louis. “And we have a group of studs up there.
    “They're great individual athletes, but what makes them so special is that they only have one goal: winning. They don't care about the personal stats, things like that, they want a ring and that has motivated them all season.”
    Defensive line coaches Dave Podjenski, who works with the interior linemen, and Nolan Hochgrebe, who works with the ends, agree with Donohoe.
    “Oh, they're a special group,” Podjenski said. “Their work ethic is unbelievable, and they really like playing together. We have six or seven guys who can play the line, and they don't care about anything but helping each other out. And winning.”
    The heart and soul of this special group is senior defensive tackle Jason Young, who moved to Blue Springs from Independence before his freshman year.
    “We didn't think that Jason was anything special as a freshman,” Hochgrebe said. “In fact, on his physical it said 'heart condition,' so we didn't even know if he could play. But he's become a great leader on this line after playing running back and linebacker (as an underclassman).
    “When we put him in the middle of the line, he just began to excel. He's so fast, there aren't many guards or centers who can stop him.”
    Joining Young (67 tackles, seven sacks) are tackles Tre'von Warmack (23 tackles, two sacks) and Kenny Manning (13 tackles) and ends Elijah Lee (60 tackles, 16 sacks), Austin Sloan (13 tackles) and Derick Clement (23 tackles, one sack).
    “It is such a blessing to be a part of this team,” Young said. “When I was an eighth grader in Independence, I didn't know anything about Blue Springs football. Then, we moved out here and I found my home.
    “I can't imagine playing anywhere else. We have a great secondary and great linebackers, but this season, it all starts up front. We know that Coach Donohoe and the rest of the coaches expected big things from us this season and we wanted to deliver.”
    The defense stood tall in last week's 14-11 win over archrival Rockhurst, that set the stage for Friday's semifinal game at DeSmet.
    “I felt like I came home when I joined this team and became part of the line,” said Lee, who moved to Blue Springs after transferring from St. Joseph Central and is playing his first season with the Wildcats.
    Page 2 of 2 - “We're all brothers. I wish I could tell you just how special it is to be a part of this line and this team.”
    His teammates agree.
    “We're all in this together,” said Warmack, whose older brother is Dalvin Warmack, the standout running back who has more than 1,800 rushing yards and 40 touchdowns on the season. “We're going to do everything we can to get the ultimate prize – a (state championship) ring.”
    Sloan said he believes this group is special because “we really care about each other. We're in the biggest class in the state and play some of the best teams in the state and to be considered one of the best defenses in the history of our school is special.”
    Manning said the group's approach, both on and off the field, makes them special.
    “It's a brotherhood,” Manning said. “Hard work – every minute of every practice, that's why we're successful. We're a group of brothers who work hard to be the best.”
    Clement believes the group's unity makes them special.
    “We care about each other and we care about winning,” Clement said. “When you really care about your teammates – the guys you play alongside on the line – you'll do anything you can to be successful. I think we work hard and we have great coaches and it's all helped us get a game away from going to state.”
    And what would a state championship mean to Young and Co.?
    “Oh my goodness,” Young said, “it would mean everything. It would be the perfect way for the seniors to end their careers at Blue Springs High School.”

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