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Examiner
  • Wildcat defense lifts Blue Springs to pressure-packed win over Rockhurst

  • Think you know a way to stop the Blue Springs football team? You might want to guess again.

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  • Think you know a way to stop the Blue Springs football team? You might want to guess again.
    All season long the Wildcats have leaned on the legs of Dalvin Warmack – the junior running back who’s run for more than 1,800 yards and totaled 40 touchdowns – and a high-powered offense that was averaging 47.4 entering Friday night’s Class 6 District 4 championship against Rockhurst.
    The defense? It carried a so-so reputation that was compromised by some early-season injuries to key contributors as well as a 62-point stinker in a 22-point win against Lee’s Summit three weeks back.
    But Friday, it was that unit doing the heavy lifting in a 14-11 victory over the Hawklets at Peve Stadium at Blue Springs High School.
    After the game, Wildcats coach Kelly Donohoe described the defensive effort as one of the best he’s seen in 13 seasons at Blue Springs.
    “They deserve all the accolades,” said Donohoe, whose team topped Rockhurst 38-24 in the third week of the season. “They played so well.”
    The second-ranked Wildcats (11-1) forced Rockhurst into 13 third-and-long situations, of which the fourth-ranked Hawklets converted just three. The Blue Springs defensive line constantly broke through the line of scrimmage to collect six sacks on the four quarterbacks that Rockhurst coach Tony Severino ended up using. Four of those came courtesy of junior defensive end Elijah Lee.
    “Anybody on this team can break off (big plays),” Lee said. “You can’t plan on stopping one person. You’ve got to be ready for the other secret weapons.”
    The same could be said of the Wildcat offense. Rockhurst (9-3) loaded up defenders in the box, effectively limiting Warmack 67 yards on 21 carries. But that opened things up for junior receiver Darrius Shepherd, who snared six receptions from senior quarterback Wylson Lamb for 100 yards. That included a 57-yard scoring bomb at the 3:42 mark of the second quarter Shepherd tallied 17 seconds after the Hawklets took a 3-0 lead on Griffin Bins’ 48-yard field goal.
    “He’s been a big receiver all year,” Donohoe said. “I think he’s the best receiver in Missouri. It’s no secret. He’s been doing it all season for us.”
    Shepherd’s biggest plays, however, might have come on special teams. With three minutes remaining in the third period, Shepherd snatched a Rockhurst punt, weaved through the onrushing Hawklet defenders, reversed field and sprang for a 70-yard score that put the Cats up 14-3 after Blane Howell’s extra point.
    “I knew we needed another score to secure the game and get it out of hand,” Shepherd said. “... I was going down the field, trying to make cuts and I see (blockers) laying out. People were making holes for me so I just followed the holes and got to the end zone.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Shepherd also officially iced the victory moments after Rockhurst’s TJ Green hit Zach Nelson for a 69-yard touchdown strike with 27 seconds left. As Rockhurst attempted a last-gasp onside kick, it was Shepherd leaping in the air, clutching the ball and keeping his grip amongst a pile of charging Hawklets.
    With that, Donohoe finally exhaled, wrapping up the seventh playoff meeting with Rockhurst in the last 10 years and concluding a week he admitted wasn’t exactly pleasant.
    “I’ve been tremendously anxious all week,” said Donohoe, whose team topped the Hawklets at home for the first time since 2001. “It’s never a fun week because you’re just so pressed about doing everything and looking at everything, turning over every rock. We did and you just hope it’s enough and it just barely was.
    “That is what makes coaching very rewarding is when you feel like your kids have exhausted themselves and your coaches have exhausted themselves in preparation for that. That’s big.”
    The Wildcats will have to pull of two victories in St. Louis if they hope to end the season with a state championship. Unranked DeSmet upset No. 1 Christian Brothers College High School 56-35 in Friday’s Class 6 District 2 contest. The Spartans (9-3) will host Blue Springs next Friday.
    The last time the Wildcats advanced to the Show-Me Bowl in 2009, they downed De Smet 35-5 in the semifinals.
     
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