Caleb Marquez never thought about getting his name in a headline during this memorable junior campaign with the Blue Springs High School football team.
Like all the Wildcats, the 6-foot-3, 235-pound fullback just wanted to make a contribution to another successful season.
Oh, and along the way, win a state championship.
He and the 11-2 Wildcats are a win away from the fifth state championship during the coach Kelly Donohoe era and sixth in school history as they meet Kirkwood at 7 p.m. Friday at the University of Missouri’s Faurot Field in Columbia.
“Last year, I was a sophomore and was really learning how to play the game at the varsity level,” said Marquez, who is also a standout baseball player.
“We got off to that terrible (0-4) start last year and I saw all my teammates really pick it up. We started working harder and wound up having an OK season – winning district and all (and finishing with a 6-6 overall record).
“But I think the work ethic on this year’s team began last year. We worked hard during the season and we worked hard in the offseason because we knew with so many guys back this year, it could be a special season.
“From the first day of practice – even going back to the weight room in the summer – all anyone talked about was winning state. Now, we’ve got the chance to make our dream come true.”
Marquez has been a huge part of an injury riddled Cats offense this season, paving the way for backs like Jaylen Ivey and Michael Warmack – who have been in and out of the lineup with a series of injuries – to pick up big gains while carrying the ball 40 times for 239 yards and four touchdowns.
He’s also a threat out of the backfield as a receiver, as he has 19 receptions for 280 yards and four more scores.
“I don’t know where we’d have been this season without big ol’ Caleb,” Donohoe said. “It’s kind of funny with (my son, injured quarterback) Chase playing little league football all those years, I’ve seen Caleb play since he was a little kid.
“He was always the biggest and the best kid on whatever team he played on. I mean, he was a dominating athlete in little league, and now, he’s a dominating and punishing back at the high school level.
“He doesn’t care about his stats or any personal glory, he just wants to go out and hit people, catch some balls and help this team win.”
Dylan Cowling, who took over at quarterback when Chase Donohoe broke his foot in the eighth game of the regular season, just grins when asked about Marquez.
“The easiest thing I do is hand him the ball, or give it to one of our backs, and watch Caleb destroy people,” said Cowling, who started the season at linebacker. “No one can tackle him one on one, and he just destroys defenders. I’m glad I don’t have to try and tackle him – no one on this team wants anything to do with him at practice.”
Marquez said he has seen Cowling grow into the leader on this offense, and believes the Wildcats are ready to finish the postseason with a bang.
“We lost so many guys to injuries, and no one complained or made excuses,” Marquez said. “I’m going to do whatever Coach wants me to do – and so are the other guys on the team. For as long as we can remember, we’ve dreamed about winning state, and now, we’re in the state championship game.
“We can’t wait for Friday!”