Injuries that would cripple a lesser team continue to be no problem for the Blue Springs High School football juggernaut.
The Wildcats rolled over their third consecutive postseason opponent Friday night at Peve Stadium to claim a berth in the Class 6 state semifinals.
After defeating Francis Howell Central 49-8 and Jefferson City 56-46 – in a game the Wildcats’ starters led by 31 points in the fourth quarter – coach Kelly Donohoe’s squad claimed a 49-14 Class 6 District 3 championship win over visiting Francis Howell to advance to next week’s semifinal against St. Louis CBC or Hazelwood Central, which play at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Five different players scored the seven touchdowns for the 10-2 Wildcats as Michael Warmack, who missed the first five games of the season with a knee injury, returned to the form that had Donohoe and his staff so excited this summer.
“Michael is back – totally back – you could see that tonight,” Donohoe said after Warmack scored on runs of 1, 7 and 25 yards and carried the ball 17 times for 131 yards in just over one half of action.
“Every guy who has played this season has made an impact on this team. We could have been down and out with all the injuries, but guys rose to the occasion when Michael was on the sidelines, and now, he’s coming back and doing a great job carrying the ball.”
The Wildcats are also without starting quarterback Chase Donohoe, the coach’s son, and running backs Nick Wood and Aveion Bailey, who are out for the rest of the season with lower body injuries.
On a bright note, Jaylen Ivey, who missed the past two games with a high ankle sprain, was used sparingly Friday night and finished with eight carries for 41 yards.
“We have a saying, ‘Next man up,’ and that means whoever is the next man to come in and play a role for this team will get the job done,” said an emotional center Spencer Johnson, who might have played his last game at Peve Stadium.
If CBC wins the district title game Saturday, the Wildcats will travel to St. Louis. If Hazelwood Central wins, next week’s game will be played at Blue Springs.
“I don’t want to get all emotional,” Johnson said, “but I’ve started every game here the last three years, and if this is my last game here, it is a great way to go out with my brothers. We’re really playing well in the postseason and we want to keep playing well because the toughest teams are coming up.
“But we don’t care who we play if we keep playing like we have the past three weeks.”
The Wildcats held the potent Viking offense to just 13 yards and no points in a first half that saw Blue Springs take a 35-0 lead into halftime of the game that also doubles as a state quarterfinal.
Tyree King scored on a 28-yard run; Joey Janes scored on a 19-yard run; Tre Wheaton found the end zone on a 9-yard run – following two false start calls – and Warmack scored on runs of 1 and 7 yards.
Caleb Marquez scored on a 10-yard run and Warmack scored from 25 yards out in the second half.
“I got what my offensive line gave me – they are the best offensive line in the state. They make my job easy,” Warmack said. “Well, maybe not easy – but easier than if I was running behind another group of offensive linemen.
“It doesn’t matter who’s in there for the team. When I was out, Jaylen and Aveion and Nick got it done. Now, Aveion and Nick are hurt and Jaylen and I are going to carry the ball.
“We have so much faith in our line and Dylan (Cowling), anyone who plays for this team is going to get the job done.”
Cowling, who replaced Donohoe (out with a broken foot) as the starter for the last game of the regular season, enjoyed a solid night, completing 11 of 17 passes for 154 yards. The Wildcats were five-of-five on touchdown opportunities inside the red zone.
“This is extremely special, to play like that,” Cowling said. “I have been on this field since I was 5 years old – it is so special if this is my last game here at Blue Springs.
“And it’s special to be on a team where the game means so much to everyone. Everyone contributed to this win tonight.”
The biggest defensive play of the game came at 1:34 of the first quarter when linebacker Tyler Bronston picked off a pass at the Vikings’ 44. That led to Janes’ 19-yard TD run.
“The way our offense has been playing, we know if we make a big play they’re going to score a touchdown,” said Bronston, another senior. “We just feed off each other. We’re winning a lot of games and having a lot of fun. If this is our last game here, it was a great win.”