For years, Chase Donohoe has been throwing a football to his buddy Joey Janes.
“I’m a year older than Chase, so we were never on the same little league football team, but when we were little kids, he’d throw me a pass in our cul de sac and I’d catch it and we’d chest bump, and I bet all the neighbors thought, ‘Those kids are crazy,’” Janes said after catching a 39-yard touchdown pass from Donohoe that gave the Blue Springs Wildcats their first lead of the night Friday at Peve Stadium.
What made the pass even more impressive is that it came on a fourth-down call and helped the Wildcats (3-1) rally from an 18-0 second-quarter deficit to claim a 42-25 victory over Park Hill.
“Every touchdown we scored was as important as that one,” said Janes, whose touchdown made the score 32-25 with 10 seconds left in the third quarter. “This was a complete team victory. We’re down 18-0 and the defense shuts down Park Hill and we come back and basically score 42 straight points (Park Hill added one third-quarter touchdown following a blocked Wildcats punt).”
Park Hill (2-2) rolled into Peve Stadium with a high powered offense and two Division I defensive stars in linebackers Seven Wilson (who wears the No. 7) and Chester Graves (the top-rated high school recruit in the state).
And midway through the second period the Trojans appeared as if they would cruise as they took the 18-0 lead – but missed each extra point on three touchdowns.
“It’s a mental thing, but we’re down 18-0 and I’m thinking if we score three touchdowns we’ve got the lead,” said Chase Donohoe, a first-year starter who completed 16 of 28 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns while converting five key fourth-down plays.
Sophomore running back Aveion Bailey, who finished the game with 144 yards on 27 carries before leaving with an injury, scored on runs of 10 and 1 yards – with the 1-yarder coming on a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line call, to cut the deficit to 18-14 with 21 seconds left in the first half.
“We had a lot of momentum going into the half,” Chase Donohoe said. “And it carried over into the second half. And our defense was amazing the second half.”
Park Hill scored its final touchdown when Graves blocked a punt and T.J. Hullaby recovered the ball in the end zone to make it 25-14 at 9:50 of the third quarter.
That’s when Donohoe and the Wildcats went to work.
They converted a fourth-and-2 on a 6-yard pass to Caleb Marquez en route to a 9-yard touchdown pass to Marquez that made it 25-22 after Tanner Taula caught a 2-point conversion pass from Donohoe.
Park Hill punter Parker Sampson then had the ball snapped over his head and he raced to the end zone and kicked it out of bounds for a safety, making it 25-24 at the 5:24 mark of the third.
On the ensuing possession, Donohoe hit Janes for the go-ahead score on another fourth-down call – this time, fourth-and-2 from the 39.
“I’ve thrown a lot of passes to Joey over the years,” Chase Donohoe said, “but that was my favorite.”
The Wildcats had the lead, but lost Bailey to a lower body injury. With Michael Warmack (injury) and Jaylen Ivey (a two-game suspension) on the sidelines, the Wildcats turned to their fourth tailback, sophomore Nick Wood.
All the 5-foot-7, 163-pounder did was rush for 66 yards and score the final touchdown in an unexpected performance.
“Give all the credit to my line – Daniel (Parker), Conrad (Rowley), (brothers) Jack and Spencer (Johnson) and Forest (Dodge) and Christian (Frisbey),” Wood said. “They were the reason I was able to run the ball. Aveion did an amazing job for us tonight and I wanted to do anything I could to help us win the game.”
Spencer Johnson, the three-year starting center for the Wildcats, turned the praise back on Bailey, Wood and Donohoe.
“I get chills just thinking about what those guys did tonight, how they helped us come back from being down 18-0,” Spencer said. “We had five fourth down conversions – five! Man, that doesn’t happen very often.
“Chase had total control of the team, never lost his cool – he was our leader out there. And the defense was amazing the second half.”
The Wildcats switched some things at halftime and took away a slant pass that had been so effective for Park Hill quarterback Billy Maples (11 of 23 for 258 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions) in the first two quarters, when he was 8 of 11.
“We were a different defense the second half,” defensive back Stephen Benson said. “We didn’t play that well the first half, but we took care of business the second half.”
An emotional Kelly Donohoe, Chase’s father and the Wildcats head coach, addressed his team following the homecoming victory.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been prouder of a group of guys than I am you tonight,” Donohoe said. “To overcome an 18-point deficit against a team like Park Hill is a credit to this team.
“I’ve always said we go out and play for four quarters, and we showed up a little late tonight, but we got it done – and that’s what matters.”
After most of his players had left the field, Donohoe was prompted to pose for a family photo by his daughter Taylor, who surprised her dad by coming home from college to help celebrate his 49th birthday.
“I’m so proud of Chase – as a father and a coach – and to share tonight with Taylor, who caught me totally off guard when I saw her, and (wife) Jennifer is so special.”
He and Chase then walked to the locker room as rain began to fall at the stadium.
The high school doors were locked.
“I hope they’re not trying to tell us something, Chase,” the coach said, laughing.