When Blue Springs started this football season 0-4, Wildcats coach Kelly Donohoe didn’t panic.
And he didn’t panic early in the fourth quarter of Friday night’s 31-24 win over visiting Lee’s Summit West after the Titans had rallied to make it 17-17 either. Nor did running back Tresten Spruell or wide receiver Tanner Taula.
“I was mad,” Donohoe said. “Didn’t panic. (I was) very upset about that. We just felt like we were really controlling the game and we couldn’t finish off a few drives. That was really frustrating.”
But with the score tied, the offense responded by finishing off two drives – both with TD runs from Spruell. Spruell, who paced the Wildcats with 258 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries, shared Donohoe’s frustration. He also knew the Wildcats were about to move the ball and get back after it, he said.
“I have no doubt in my team,” Spruell said.
For Taula, whose grab of a last-minute onside kick attempt helped prevent the Titans from staging a game-tying or game-winning drive, the offensive line fueled his confidence that the Wildcats would take care of business.
“Our offensive line kicked butt the whole game,” he said. “We executed. So I was just chillin’.”
The Wildcats executed well enough offensively to possess the ball for 33 out of 48 minutes. For West’s defense to be on the field that long was not Titan football, said Titans coach Royce Boehm.
“We as a (coaching) staff, we’ll take the blame for that, OK?” Boehm said. “We came off of a tough week against Blue Springs South. We got (beaten) up. We tried to back off on the kids, got out of sync of our routine. And you know what? It’s on us — and we’re not going to let that happen again.”
Early on, it didn’t appear the Wildcats would need to win it down the stretch, as they built a 14-0 lead within the first 12:58. Spruell’s 10-yard TD run made it 7-0 with 5:10 left in the first quarter. Jaylen Ivey added a 15-yard TD run with 11:02 left in the second quarter.
West (5-3, 2-2 Suburban Big Six) cut it to 14-10 by halftime. First, Dalton Dye booted a 32-yard field goal with 7:43 remaining. Then Cole Taylor tossed 17-yard TD pass to Zach Shanholtzer and Dye’s point after with 46.4 seconds left made it a one-score game.
After pushing a field goal attempt wide right midway through the third quarter, Tresten Williams booted through a 35-yarder with 1:55 left in the quarter to make it 17-10 Blue Springs. Taylor and Shanholtzer connected on a 43-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown and Dye booted another point after to tie it with 9:44 left in the fourth quarter.
Following Spruell’s 38- and 8-yard TD runs, Taylor connected with Shanholtzer for an 11-yard TD pass and Dye booted his final extra point after to make it a seven-point ballgame with 50 seconds left. Taula then snagged Dye’s ensuing pop-fly onside kick attempt to help ice it.
“I should’ve known that I could’ve fair caught that, but (I didn’t), I just went up there (to) try to get it,” Taula said. “And I got it.”
By holding off West’s 11th-hour surge, the Wildcats improved to 3-5 and 3-1 in the Big Six. And, no doubt, Blue Springs’ third victory in four games provided Donohoe with further evidence that his assurances to Blue Springs fans are valid.
“I’ve been telling people, ‘Just give us some time, we’re going to be pretty darn good before it’s all over’ — and we just keep getting better and better,” he said. “I’m really excited (about) where we’re going right now. I think we can keep getting better and better.”