Casey Still enjoyed a great deal of personal success on a 2015 Blue Springs football team that overcame a disastrous start to finish 6-6, win a district title and gain confidence heading into this season.
“Casey was an all-state linebacker on a .500 team – that should tell you something about what he means to this football team,” Wildcats head coach Kelly Donohoe, who owns four state championships and a remarkable 166-40 record in 17 seasons at Blue Springs, said as he prepares his team for Friday’s Class 6 Show-Me Bowl state championship game against Kirkwood.
“We won district, and people were asking who our best defensive player was, and it was Casey,” Donohoe added. “He was the heart and soul of our defense as a junior and is the heart and soul of our defense this season. We could take a highlight reel of every play that Casey was involved with this season and show it to younger kids to show them that that’s the way football should be played.”
Still has recorded a team-best 104 tackles, including five for loss. He has added a sack, an interception and three passes defensed for the 11-2 Wildcats.
“He’s a remarkable player because he never takes a play off,” Donohoe said. “His motor is always running and always seems to make the big play – or plays – in a game. Funny how the guys who seem to work the hardest are always making the biggest plays.”
The biggest play Still has made this season came in last Friday’s 35-21 victory over a confident Christian Brothers College High School team that let the Wildcats know before the game that they were going to have to earn a victory on a field where the Cadets had won 28 games in a row.
Still and the Wildcats took the comments to heart.
With the Wildcats clinging to a 28-14 lead midway through the third quarter, Cadets quarterback Brett Gabbert hit speedy wide out Tyler Walton as he streaked down the near sideline.
“I thought the kid was gone for a touchdown,” Donohoe said. “Our lead was going to be cut in half and they would have all the momentum. Then, I saw Casey.”
Still, running like he was shot out of a cannon, sprinted after Walton, shedding blocker after blocker. The 6-foot, 185-pound linebacker managed to push Walton out of bounds at the Wildcats’ 6-yard line.
“That was the first big play,” Donohoe said. “Then, he made a couple of tackles behind the line of scrimmage and they go for a field goal and miss it. We go from a scenario where we might be leading 28-21 back to our 28-14 lead and we have all the momentum.”
Armed with that momentum, the Wildcats then march down the field against the stunned Cadets and quarterback Dylan Cowling scores on a 1-yard run to make it 35-14.
“We kind of feed off each other – the offense and the defense,” Still said. “We know if we make a big play, the offense is going to reward us with a score or a long offensive series. We have so much faith in our offense and I know they have a lot of faith in us. That’s what makes this team so special.”
And what makes this undersized linebacker so special?
“Me, special?” Still said, grinning. “I’ll have to think about that one.”
OK, what made him think he could get past a sea of blockers and catch one of the fastest players on the Cadets to prevent that third-quarter touchdown?
“That’s just how I play and that’s just how I’m coached here at Blue Springs,” Still said. “I don’t care if a guy is going for a touchdown or running out of his own end zone, I’m going to approach the play the same way.
“I’m going to give it everything I have and do everything possible to make the play. I never thought I wouldn’t get that guy before he scored. Some other people might have thought that, but I never did.”
And now the man whose motor is always running is game away from the ultimate prize. Before this season began, he was asked about goals.
He had just one.
“To win state,” he said, matter of factly. “That’s the only goal of every player on this team. And we’re not really a team, we’re more like a family. We’re a band of brothers, and I’m not just saying that, I mean it.
“The guys on this team are so close. And we know what the offense is capable of and we’re going to do everything we can on the defensive side of the ball to make this a special season for everyone.”