The final score of Blue Springs’ Class 6 District 3 semifinal game against Jefferson City was indicative of the way the Wildcats handled the No. 4 seed.
Blue Springs came in with plenty of injuries as three running backs were down and so was quarterback Chase Donohoe, who suffered a season-ending broken foot in Week 8 against Blue Springs South.
Even with so many skill position players banged up, the Wildcats had a 31-point lead early in the fourth, which gave them more than enough cushion to survive some late scores from the Jays during a 56-46 triumph Friday at Peve Stadium.
Blue Springs will take on Francis Howell, a 24-14 winner over Fort Zumwalt West, at 7 p.m. next Friday at home in the district final, which also doubles as a state quarterfinal.
“We began to pull our starters and they got some quick scores,” Wildcats coach Kelly Donohoe said. “Some people might look at the score and say, ‘Wow! What a game!’ But it you know, it wasn’t really indicative of what really went on.”
No. 2 running back Michael Warmack and his offensive line were primary reasons that Blue Springs was able to get by with just one healthy running back. He scored on runs of 12, 4, 6 and 54, with the latter serving as the backbreaker for Jefferson City in the fourth as Blue Springs opened up a 56-32 lead with 6:42 remaining after his offensive line opened up a huge hole in the middle.
“My line does a good job blocking, so I don’t take very many hits,” a smiling Warmack said when asked how he felt taking on a heavy workload.
Although No. 1 running back Jaylen Ivey was cleared to play against the Jays following an ankle injury he suffered three weeks ago, Donohoe made the decision to keep his talented ball carrier fresh for the looming game against Vikings.
“We could have played Jaylen, but we didn’t want to play Jaylen,” Donohoe said. “We wanted to save him for next week. We wanted to make sure he’s 100 percent and he will be next week.”
Warmack didn’t disappoint Donohoe in his decision as he gashed the Jefferson City defense for 232 yards on 27 carries.
“I don’t know what he had in yards, but it had to be crazy,” Donohoe said. “We were efficient on offense. We were doing what we hoped to do and that’s dominate in the run game.”
What helped open up holes for the 5-foot-7, 175-pound running back was the carried that went to the wide receivers on end arounds, reverses and straight handoffs as Joey Janes, Tre Wheaton and Tyree King combined to rush for 105 yards.
“We have really good athletes in Joey, Tre and Tyree,” Donohoe said. “We want to get them the ball as much as we can. The more we can get those guys the ball, the better. It opens things up inside for our tailbacks.”
Even quarterback Dylan Cowling got in on the rushing action. After defensive lineman Mohammad Alkhateeb picked up a first down on a run on a fourth-and-11 off a fake punt. Donohoe scored on a quarterback sneak, which ended up in him rumbling 22 yards for a score to make it 7-0 in the first.
After starting 12 games last year, he moved to linebacker at the beginning of this season. After Donohoe went down, he took over as the signal caller and Friday, he did not disappoint. He connected on 9 of 15 passes for 214 yards.
“My coaches and my teammates have really helped me a lot,” Cowling said. “They helped me get back into things and learn all the plays. It’s coming along pretty easy.”
He got warmed up by throwing screen passes to his receivers, which included a 72-yard screen to Janes and a 48-yarder to King. That opened things up for him to throw deep and he connected on some long ones, including a 30-yarder and a 22-yarder.
“Completing some of those short passes helped build my confidence,” Cowling said. “It makes the rest of the game go smooth. Last year, I worked at it (quarterback) every day in the offseason. This year, I wasn’t doing that because I didn’t think I was going to play quarterback. I am not where I was at the end of last season, but I am progressing and I will definitely get better.”
Jefferson City got as close as 14-12 after a 31-yard TD pass from Michael See to Allan Roettgen. But Blue Springs rattled off three touchdowns in a row – a 2-yard run by Caleb Marquez, and two scores by Warmack. After Jeff City scored halfway through the third period, Warmack scored on the 6-yard jaunt and Wheaton waltzed in the end zone on a 4-yard end around run to give the team its biggest lead early in the fourth.
“Best offensive line in the state, for sure,” Cowling said.