How big is Friday night’s matchup between longtime metro area powers Blue Springs and the host Rockhurst Hawklets?

How big is Friday night’s matchup between longtime metro area powers Blue Springs and the host Rockhurst Hawklets?

“How big is big?” asked Blue Springs senior running back Darrian Miller, the reigning Gatorade Missouri Player of the Year. “It’s our first game, it’s Rockhurst – it’s huge.”

The two teams will square off at 7:30 p.m. in a game that will be broadcast by three radio stations (including KCWJ, 1030 AM, the home of the Wildcats and the Blue Springs South Jaguars) and Metro Sports.

But don’t let all the pre-game hype scare you away from attending.

“We’re expecting over 5,000 fans, and we can accommodate all of them,” Rockhurst activities director Pete Campbell said. “Our stands hold 5,000, and we always have people standing around the stadium. We’ll even have some sitting on their roofs and watching the game from the homes on the south side of the stadium.

“We know it’s a big game and we expect the stands to be full. We’ve never had to turn away anyone for a game, and we’ll have plenty of room Friday night to accommodate all our fans and the fans who come over from Blue Springs.”

Although the top-ranked Hawklets are loaded and return most of their starters from last year’s 10-2 team, the third-ranked Wildcats aren’t intimidated.

One reason might be that Blue Springs is 7-2 under coach Kelly Donohoe in games played at Rockhurst and just 2-7 in when the two teams play at Peve Stadium.

“There’s no explanation for that,” Donohoe said, following what he called “our best practice so far this season.”

“Tony (Severino, the Rockhurst coach) and I have talked about that so many times,” Donohoe added. “We have a lot of success at their place and they come over to our place and seem to find a way to win. It’s crazy.”

The Wildcats traveled to Rockhurst last year after scoring 48 and 42 points in their first two wins and fell 17-3 in a lackluster performance that sparked the team to a memorable run to the Class 6 state championship game.

“I’m still trying to figure out how we went over to their place last year and fell flat on our faces,” Donohoe said. “We were so ready, so well prepared. Maybe we were too well prepared, you just don’t know.”

But in the state quarterfinals, the Wildcats returned to Rockhurst and used a 21-yard Cody Best field goal with no time on the clock to claim a 23-21 victory that propelled the team deeper into the playoffs.

“None of us will ever forget that game,” said Blue Springs wide receiver Jordan Nubine, one of the top recruits in the state. “I remember that game like it happened yesterday. All of us do.

“A lot of the guys who played a big role in that game have graduated, but I’m back and Darrian is back and we have some great players back on defense so we’re going to be fine.

“I can remember when it was something like 85 days until we played the Rock, now it’s here – and we’re ready.”

Kyle Brown will be running the Wildcats offense and Cory Phillips is the lone returning starter from last year’s stellar offensive line that paved the way for Miller’s nearly 2,800 yards rushing.

“Everyone talks about all the guys we lost on our line,” said Brown, a junior who replaced three-year starter Jared Lanpher, “but the guys we have now are doing a great job.

“And we have the best back in the state. If they give him any kind of hole, he’s going to do great things.”

The Wildcats were able to work out some preseason jitters by playing in their annual jamboree, even though the Friday night version was postponed until Saturday morning because of lightning.

“It was great to get the guys out there playing against some other teams,” Donohoe said. “They were able to hit someone in a different colored uniform and when you have some new guys like we have on offense, that’s important.

“I love our defense. They just fly to the ball and like to hit people. And people have been asking me how I feel about opening up against the Rock, and I just tell them, there’s no better way to start the season than when you play a team that’s as good as Rockhurst.

“This is going to show us where we stand very early in the season, and we can’t wait to get over to their place Friday night.”