In a game that had all the makings of mismatched blowout, coach Greg Oder’s underdog Blue Springs South football team threw a scare into back-to-back Class 6 state champion Blue Springs.
But Terrance Sanders and Benjamin Hellon teamed up to give the Wildcats a special 31-21 victory over the Jaguars.
The 0-3 Jaguars used two second-half touchdowns on Adam Cofield runs to cut the deficit to 28-21 with 6:02 left at Larry Stewart Memorial Stadium Friday night when Sanders returned a kickoff 50 yards – spending much of the return fighting to keep inbounds on the far sidelines. That gave the Wildcats a first down on the South 30 and zapped the Jaguars’ momentum.
When the Wildcat offense stalled, Hellon kicked the biggest field goal of his high school career, a 37-yarder that essentially proved to be a game winner as it soared over the goalpost with just 2:28 left in the game to put Blue Springs (2-1) back ahead by 10 points.
“Our special teams were pretty special tonight. We look at that as a game-winning field goal, because it was going to be real tough for Greg’s kids to come back and score 10 in the final two minutes,” Wildcats coach Kelly Donohoe said. “We knew coming over here this was going to be a real game. Heck, we got our butt kicked in ’06 and ’08, and found ways to win in ’10 and ’12 (at South) and I’m proud of our guys.
“Greg is missing so many starters I don’t even want to mention it, but we were missing a couple of big players on our defensive line (Khalil Davis, leg injury; and Trevon Warmack, shoulder injury) and we lost Terrance and Cobi (Bissell) for about a quarter to cramps.
“We’re coming off that (35-21) loss at Fort Osage and our guys were as focused this week as they have been in a long time, and it’s a good thing they were because Greg’s kids were just outstanding tonight, and so were out special teams.”
Donohoe was especially impressed with sophomore quarterback Cale Connors, who engineered all three Jaguar touchdown drives and finished the night completing 10 of 25 passes for 128 yards and one touchdown.
“What a great game Cale Connors had,” Donohoe said. “He had that tough game last week (35-0 loss to Liberty North) and came in here tonight and played like a man.
“You could never tell he was a backup (to injured Noah Nigro) or a sophomore. I’m impressed with that young man. He’s going to give us fits over the next two years.”
Blue Springs’ special teams play was extra special, with Sanders and Hellon providing the late-game heroics.
“I was close to going out of bounds on that return, but I was able to slow down and keep control and stay behind my blockers,” Sanders said. “We knew we needed to get another score and I was real happy with that return.
“Then Benjamin came in and got the field goal. We were feeling a lot better with a 10-point lead late in the game.”
Hellon said he envisioned a successful field goal long before he took the field.
“When we got close, I started thinking about kicking the field goal,” Hellon said. “I imagined kicking it and seeing it go through the uprights. When it happened, it just felt great. It’s great to play a part in a big win like this.”
It was the seventh straight win for the Wildcats over their cross-town rivals and extended their series lead to 13-9, but Oder said his team can take many positives away from the loss.
“It stinks we lost,” Oder said, “but, we did a lot of good things tonight. It’s easier to walk off the field tonight playing like we did, than it was last week against Liberty North. I thought Cale matured a lot.
“You talk to the kid and you can’t believe he’s just a sophomore. He had a tough game last week, but everyone had a tough game last week. Our line play was much better tonight, he had the opportunity to make some things happen on offense and he really did a great job in the second half.”
An emotional Connors gave credit to his teammates for the second-half comeback.
“My line blocked and we had a great running game,” Connors said. “Blue Springs is a great football team, and I know a lot of the kids I talked with this week thought we were going to lose something like 50-0.
“We made it a game, but we still have to get better.”
Blue Springs quarterback Ian Brown had touchdown runs of 3 and 1 yards and Cobi Bissell had touchdown runs of 17 yards and 1 yard and finished the night with 125 yards on 22 carries. Those four scores built a 28-7 halftime lead for the Wildcats.
Connors hit Keeyon Incle on a 23-yard pass play for the Jaguars first score. Cofield’s second-half touchdowns came on runs of 12 and 2 yards.