Dylan Cowling is the ultimate team player.
The Blue Springs High School quarterback started the season as a linebacker, but had to move back to his quarterback position when starter Chase Donohoe broke a bone in his foot in a 31-17 victory over Blue Springs South in Week 8 of the regular season.
After struggling through a 26-21 loss to Raymore-Peculiar last week – with just one week of preparation to learn a totally new offense – Cowling stepped up and played a big role in Friday night’s 49-8 district victory over visiting Francis Howell Central.
Friday night he was playing for someone other than his teammates. He dedicated the game to his grandfather, Bill Cowling, who listened to the KCWJ broadcast from a hospital bed.
“This win’s for my best friend, my Papa,” said Cowling, who was 8-of-10 for 76 yards and two touchdowns in one half of action. “Can I tell him I love him in the paper? Because I do – I love you Papa.”
And the elder Cowling had to be smiling after his grandson’s solid performance in just his second start of the season.
“This was one of those games where everything clicked,” coach Kelly Donohoe said, as he prepares his team for next Friday’s home game against one of the most storied programs in the state, Jefferson City. “Dylan and the offense got the job done, the defense was amazing – that’s a very good football team, don’t take tonight’s score into consideration, they can score points and a lot of them – and our special teams play was just outstanding.
“That’s as complete a game you can play, especially at this time of the season.”
The Wildcats had eight offensive possessions in the first half and scored seven times. The lone time they did not score came when they lost the ball on a fumble on the Spartans’ 2-yard line.
Michael Warmack, the speedy running back who is coming off an early season injury, carried the ball seven times for 77 yards and two touchdowns.
“It wasn’t me, it was the line, they did a great job tonight,” said Warmack, the younger brother of former Wildcats all-state standout Dalvin Warmack. “Dylan did a great job running the offense and the defense did a great job keeping them out of the end zone.”
When Warmack wasn’t running away from the Spartans defense, Caleb Marquez was running over and through them, as he finished the game with 10 carries for 71 yards and one score.
“We have some big bodies in the backfield when I’m in there,” said the 6-3, 235-pound back, whose lead blocker was 6-4, 305-pound defensive lineman Khristian Boyd. “We have some fun when we’re in there, then we turn the ball over to Michael and he does great things, too.”
Tanner Taula, the Wildcats’ 6-6, 215-pound tight end also got in on the action, catching a 10-yard touchdown and running for a 25-yard score.
“That was fun,” Taula said. “I had a big height advantage over the kid who was covering me on the touchdown pass and we just put that running play in this week. The coaches liked how I ran it in practice – I stiff armed a couple of guys – and was able to get in the end zone tonight.”
Wide receiver Joey Janes played one series at quarterback and scored on a 2-yard run and Tre Wheaton caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from Cowling.
On the defensive side of the ball, safety Nick Hessefort had two sacks in the first quarter against Spartans quarterback Jackson Breck, who was 8 of 26 for 106 yards.
The Spartans throw the ball 90 percent of the time, and rarely punt the ball away. The Wildcats averaged getting the ball on the Spartans’ 32-yard line and started just one drive in their own territory.
“Give them props, they played hard and never gave up,” said defensive back Stephen Benson, who took an interception 66 yards for a score, only to have the play called back by an illegal block that trailed the play by 15 yards.
“They pass a lot and really challenged us tonight, and we accepted the challenge.”
On special teams, the Wildcats recovered a botched kick off and converted it into a touchdown and kicker Tristin Williams, who has not missed an extra point this season, was 7-of-7.
“It’s a good way to start the playoffs,” Donohoe said, who cleared the bench in the second half. “A lot of kids got to play tonight, and that’s always good.”
The game was delayed nearly 40 minutes when sophomore running back Nick Wood suffered a lower body injury and had to be carted off the field on a stretcher late in the second quarter following a 16-yard run.
“Nick will be in our prayers tonight,” Donohoe said.