Everyone inside Peve Stadium Friday night knew that Blue Springs running back Aveion Bailey was going to get the ball.
His Wildcats were clinging to a narrow 24-21 lead over crosstown rival Blue Springs South Friday night in a Class 6 District 2 semifinal at Peve Stadium.
The Wildcats had the ball first-and-10 on the South 39-yard line and the senior running back bulled over a host of Jaguars for a 17-yard gain.
Quarterback Koby Mansfield handed Bailey the ball again, and he broke through a wave of defenders on another 17-yard gain on his way to 263 rushing yards.
The rock-sold Jaguars defense, led by Skyler Meyers, held firm in the red zone as the Wildcats faced a fourth-and-seven from the 14.
With the crowd chanting “Bailey! Bailey! Bailey!” Mansfield faked the ball to Bailey, who drew a half dozen tacklers, as the senior quarterback ran untouched into the end zone for the score with 1:47 left to seal a 31-21 victory.
With the win, the Wildcats advanced to play top-seeded Rock Bridge in the district final next Friday in Columbia.
“You know, it’s kind of funny,” Wildcats coach Kelly Donohoe said after his team rallied from a 14-0 deficit for the win, “we don’t really have that naked bootleg in our (play) book this year. But as we’re talking about what we need to do – and we needed a score – Coach (Derek) Wilson, our defensive coach, came over and said, ‘I think a bootleg would work. They’re going to be concentrating on Aveion.’
“I agreed with him. Koby sold it, everyone went after Aveion and we scored one of our biggest touchdowns of the season.”
Donohoe slumped in a chair in the coaches’ office inside the Blue Springs locker room and praised a 3-8 South team that gave his 8-3 Wildcats all they could handle.
“Tonight’s not the right time, because I know those guys are hurting, but soon I am going to call (South) Coach (Jon) Oyler and tell him what a tremendous game his kids played and how well they were prepared to play us.
“When we’re down 14-0 early in the game, it’s like, ‘We need to get something going.’ We have not been a team that’s passed the ball that much this season and we needed to find a way to get some points on the scoreboard – and they kept us from doing that for most of the first half.”
Dakoda Kenig, who missed much of the season with an injury, came back Friday night and got the Jaguars on the scoreboard at 6:44 of the first period with a 1-yard touchdown run.
Quarterback Max Conard then hit Isaiah Tauai on a 34-yard sideline pattern at 11:53 of the second period and the Jaguars had a 14-0 lead.
Blue Springs running back Nick Wood, who had also been out with an injury, returned and scored on a 17-yard run to make it 14-7 at halftime, setting the stage for an explosive second half.
Bailey scored his first touchdown on a 7-yard run at 6:46 of the third period to knot it 14-14. He then bulled his way into the end zone from the 1-yard line at 11:57 of the fourth quarter to give the Wildcats their first lead, 21-14.
Conard, though, scored on a 71-yard run on the Jaguars’ next possession to tie it at 21 with 10:56 remaining.
With Bailey getting the bulk of the carries, the Wildcats then drove to the 24-yard line. Fredy Romero kicked a 30-yard field goal to make it 24-21 with 6:27 left.
That set the stage for Mansfield’s dramatic bootleg run.
“They were keying on Aveion and all I had to do was fake a handoff and run into the end zone,” said Mansfield, who was 3 of 9 for 36 yards in the air with nine carries for 27 yards on the ground. “Our O-line was amazing tonight. They got it done all night.”
Oyler agreed, as he watched his players meet the Wildcats at midfield following the game.
“We played some good ball at the end of the season,” Oyler said. “You have to give their O-line credit. I’m not taking anything away from Bailey, but that O-line opened some big holes tonight.”
Bailey had 39 carries to give him 564 yards in the last two games.
“This was a big win, a huge win,” Bailey said. “Give South so much credit. Those guys played hard all night long and it took our best effort to beat them. But it all starts up front and my line took care of all of us.”