COLUMBIA, Mo. – Quentin Fontenot has been biding his time, quietly getting carries as Aveion Bailey’s backup for Blue Springs.
But the Blue Springs reserve running back came up with the biggest score of his career Friday.
The marquee matchup between the third-seeded Wildcats and host and No. 1 seed Columbia Rock Bridge in the Class 6 District 2 championship and state quarterfinal game Friday night at Wayne Sells Family Activity Field exceeded the pregame hype. The Wildcats, thanks to Fontenot’s touchdown, were able to hang on for a dramatic 29-27 victory.
With 5:20 left in the fourth quarter, Fontenot capped a 62-yard drive with a 4-yard jet sweep to make the score 29-20.
But the explosive Bruins scored on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Grant Hajicek to Martez Manuel with just a minute left.
That set up a heart-stopping onsides kick that Bailey grabbed to secure 9-3 Blue Springs’ spot in the state semifinals against Rockhurst next Friday.
“I scored that last touchdown, but give all the credit to my line – my amazing line – and Aveion,” Fontenot said, “because their whole line collapsed on Aveion and I was able to get outside and score. It was the biggest touchdown of my life, but I want to share it with Aveion and my line and everyone on the team.”
The Wildcats’ offense line faced insurmountable odds all night as the Bruins placed between nine and 10 defenders in the box. That didn’t stop Blue Springs from rushing for 163 yards, with Bailey finishing 128 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries.
“My line, all the credit to my line,” Bailey said. “Those guys do it all for the team, for me, the other backs and (quarterback) Koby Mansfield. We’re all brothers out there and they were blocking against 11 guys all night long. They are warriors.”
When asked about grabbing the final onsides kick, Bailey just grinned and said, “Had to do it. We couldn’t let them get the ball.”
Blue Springs got off to a 7-0 lead on a flea-flicker 43-yard touchdown pass. Bailey pitched back to Mansfield, who hit a wide-open Corey Willich for the score.
Bailey then capped a drive with a 1-yard touchdown. Willich then grabbed a high snap and ran into the end zone for a two-point conversion to make it 15-0.
The Bruins got back in the game on a 75-yard touchdown run by Nate Peat, the all-state back who has committed to Stanford.
Soon it was 15-13 as Will Norris caught a 21-yard touchdown pass, but the Bruins’ two-point conversion failed and it stayed a two-point advantage for the Wildcats.
That’s when defensive end Nick Henderson made the biggest play of his career, picking off Hajicek and returning the ball for a 40-yard score.
“That was all Simeon Sullivan,” Henderson said, grinning. “He was calling ‘Screen! Screen!’ He knew what was going on and I looked at their quarterback and followed his eyes and picked it off. It was my first pick-six, and it felt good.”
That gave Blue Springs a 22-13 lead going into halftime.
But the game was far from over as Columbia Rock Bridge cornerback Spencer Nivens picked up a Bailey fumble and returned it 40 yards for the score to open the third quarter and make it 22-20.
“From that point on, it was a heavyweight fight, and we had more punches – including the knockout punch,” Wildcats offensive lineman Conrad Rowley said. “A lot of talking going on. We didn’t take – we just punched them in the mouth.”
It was an emotional win for coach Kelly Donohoe, as his team was finally able to mount a passing attack to complement the running game, but the night belonged to the defense.
“Koby did a nice job, especially on that early flea-flicker,” Donohoe said. “Aveion and Quentin ran hard all night and our offensive line played one of their best games of the year. But our defense – that play Nick Henderson made – huge! Everyone contributed tonight.”
Mansfield, who was 5 of 16 for 97 yards, praised his team.
“Our offensive line is city boys, country boys, big boys, tough boys – but most of all, they are my brothers and they are winners,” Mansfield said. “I can’t feel my hands right now, but I’ve never felt better!”