South goes from being nearly strangers on the field to a band of brothers
Dominique Wright, and his brother, Winston.
Randy Holler. Armahn King. Derrion Thomas.
Cole Patterson. Logan Moon.
Mike House. Michael Vann.
These names are quite familiar to Blue Springs South football fans, now that the 11-2 Jaguars are a win away from their second state championship in the first two years.
But that certainly wasn’t the case when the season started.
“We didn’t know each other,” said the lone, returning full-time starter from last year’s 9-1 squad, quarterback Blaine Dalton.
“Dominique, Armahn, the linebacking and secondary guys – we didn’t know what to expect from them, and I don’t think they really knew what to expect from themselves.”
Dalton said he knew athletically they were talented, but wasn’t sure if it would translate to football.
“We knew they were very good athletes, but we didn’t know if they would be very good football players,” he said. “A lot of them were starting their first varsity season, and most of them were seniors. Some of them were on the scout team last year, Other guys played some varsity ball. But the difference between the first week of the season, and where we are now is unbelievable.
“I just wish I could put into words how far this team has come. We’re really focused right now and our only goal is a state championship.
The Jaguars will meet 11-2 Hazelwood Central at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis (the game will not be televised, but it will be broadcast live on 1030 AM, KCWJ, with the pre-game show starting at 5:30 p.m.).
“Our coaches have us so prepared, so ready to go, I wish the game was tonight,” said strong safety Cole Patterson, one of the hardest hitting members of the Jags defense.
“We’ve come a long, long way as a team this season and all the credit should go to our coaches. I know they’d tell you the players make the plays, but they put us in the right position to make those plays.”
What a wild, wild ride it’s been for the Jaguars, who opened the season with a stunning 42-14 nationally televised loss to Rockhurst.
“These kids have come back from early-season adversity and really played some great football,” coach Greg Oder said. “The kids on this team are focused. They just want to get better, day by day, week by week and game by game. They dedicated themselves to each other and look at the end result.
“We’ve had some pretty special teams at South, and this team is very special. I doubt if many people thought we’d be in this position after watching us in that Rockhurst game.”
Oder said experience, not talent, was the culprit in that season opener.
“We didn’t have bad athletes in that game – we had kids who, for the most part, were playing their first varsity game, and it was against Rockhurst and it was nationally televised,” the coach said. “That’s a tough way to start the season, even for an experienced team. But they never quit working, and that’s why I’m so proud of them.”
That pride is woven throughout the team, from the offensive side of the ball to the defense that has played such a huge role in 14-9 (Rockhurst) and 16-10 (Jefferson City) playoff wins.
“We’re all in this together,” Dominique Wright, whose big hit on Jefferson City quarterback Brad Allen was a key play in the Jags’ final offensive drive of the game.
“We’re playing for each other. The defense is out there cheering for the offense and the offense is cheering for the defense. This is more than a team. We’re all brothers out there, and when you’re playing for your family, you give it all you have.”
Middle linebacker Randy Haller agrees.
“We’re going to St. Louis as a band of brothers, not a team, but a band of brothers – brothers with one goal, and that’s winning state,” Haller said.
“We’ve come too far to let down now. I know that we’re going to work hard this week and be ready for anything that happens in St. Louis. I’m going to watch as much film this week as I ever have. There won’t be any surprises.”
The only real surprise is that a team that started the season with 21 new faces on both sides of the ball and a 1-2 record is headed to the Dome.
“The players aren’t surprised,” linebacker Armahn King said. “We were disappointed early in the year, because we’re not used to being 1-2. But we lost to Rockhurst and to Raymore-Peculiar – two great teams. We knew were going to get better, and we’re doing what great teams do.
“We’re peaking at the right time.”
When the Jaguars won state two years ago, Dalton was a sophomore who dedicated the season to his senior teammates.
This year, he is a senior.
“The first one was special, but this one will really be special,” said Dalton, who said earlier in the year that he had no intention of losing his last high school game.
“Sharing a state title with the seniors – and all the guys on the team – well, it would be the perfect way to end my (high school) career.”