Although school didn’t start until today, Kelly Donohoe is well aware of the challenges he will face this year as the new activities director at Blue Springs High School.
The veteran football coach, who has won four big class state championships and owns two second-place plaques since taking over the program in 2000, said he is staying on as the Wildcats head coach after replacing Frank Wheeler as the high school’s activities director.
It was an opportunity, and a challenge, he simply could not turn down.
“I kind of feel like an assistant coach who’s taking over from the head coach – a very, very good head coach,” said Donohoe, who has worked alongside Wheeler as the school’s assistant AD the past five years.
“It’s a challenge. It’s exciting – but I have some awfully big shoes to fill. Frank did a great job. And believe me, I have his phone number and I’ve called several times.
“I’ve also called Tim (Michael) over at South and Mark (Bubalo, the district activities administrator). They probably see my number and think, ‘Ok, what’s that Kelly Donohoe want now?’ But they’ve been great, and so helpful.
“I took over in July, and to be honest with you, there were some things I didn’t know. That’s why it so important to have people like Frank, Tim and Mark and our staff here at Blue Springs.”
Alan Hull, a former activities director and football coach at O’Hara High School, will replace Donohoe as the assistant activities director. Sarah Schulenberg will remain as the activities office assistant administrator.
“Sarah rolls her eyes when I say this, but she is like my co-activities director,” Donohoe said. “I don’t know where we’d be without Sarah. She’s the best. And I’m really looking forward to working with Al. He’s been an AD and knows how to get the job done.
“Just like my coaching staff, I’m surrounded by great people who will do their best to make me look good.”
Donohoe’s Wildcats are coming off an injury-plagued season that saw them lose, throughout the season, every member of their starting backfield. He also lost his quarterback, who happens to be his son Chase, to a broken foot late in the season. Yet the Wildcats still made it to the state championship game, losing 31-14 to Kirkwood.
This season they are healthy and have just one goal in mind – earning that state championship trophy that eluded them last season.
All the running backs will be ready to go Friday when the Wildcats open the season at Lee’s Summit High School, with the exception of leading ground gainer Jaylen Ivey, who underwent ACL surgery on his left knee in December.
“We’re taking it slow and easy with Jaylen and don’t want to rush him back,” Donohoe said. “We’re looking at Week 3, which will be our home opener against Fayetteville, Arkansas.”
When Donohoe accepted the activities director’s job, he called two of friends, who are also head football coaches and ADs – Tom Kruse at Raymore-Peculiar and John Roderique at Webb City.
“They are two coaches who have won (multiple) state titles and they told me it’s a tough job, but it’s also a doable job,” said Donohoe, who is 165-41 in 17 seasons at Blue Springs and 190-48 overall as a head coach. “You know, I’m an early morning/late evening guy. And I told everyone during the interview process that once 7:30 a.m. rolls around, I am the Blue Springs High School activities director.
“If that means doing my football stuff until 4:40 a.m., so be it. I will never let my job as the football coach at Blue Springs High School take away from being the activities director.
“And I’m really excited about this new role. We want to have the best band, the best dance and cheer squads, the best speech and debate and theater departments – and I want to take an even more active role in those departments than I did when I was Frank’s assistant.”
And, like in football, he is handing off some key responsibilities to other members of the Blue Springs staff.
“Joe Cusack, our head track coach, is so enthusiastic about every part of our high school and he’s going to be in charge of our banners program,” Donohoe said. “And Stephanie Peterman, our head cheerleading coach, is going to be in charge of our character building program where students go into the elementary schools and talk about the importance of good character through skits and other activities.
“Everyone at Blue Springs High School is focused on one thing – helping kids. That’s our No. 1 priority, and it will continue to be my No. 1 priority as the head football coach and activities director.”
The one question Donohoe faces on a weekly basis concerns the graduation of his son, Chase, who is a senior this season.
“People want to know if this will be my last year as the head football coach, if I’m going to leave after Chase graduates, and the answer is no,” Donohoe said. “I had a lot of passion and desire for football when Chase was a ball boy on our sidelines and I’ll have the same deep, burning desire to coach and win after he graduates.
“When the fire deep, down inside no longer burns, that’s when I’ll know it’s time to step away from coaching and concentrate on being an activities director. But I’m excited about this season and a lot of seasons in the future. I’ll know when it’s time to leave and that time is far off in the distance.”