They are a band of brothers whose bond is so close, so unique that they form a family, within the Blue Springs High School football family.
They live in the trenches, and have enjoyed the type of season that has offered great rewards, stinging disappointment and the chance for redemption.
The five members of the Wildcats offensive line – seniors Conrad Rowley, Jack Johnson, Jessup Leakey and Patrick Robinson and sophomore Beau Stephens – have plowed the road for a backfield that has amassed 3,340 yards, an average of 278 yards per game.
What makes this group so special is that they are enjoying success as an outmanned group of warriors who use their guile, spirit and a high football IQ to take on, and get past, insurmountable odds.
That’s because the Wildcats offense, unlike past years, does not have a potent passing attack.
While the team is averaging 278 yards per game on the ground, it is averaging just 60 yards through the air.
Because of that, Rowley, Johnson and Co., often have to find a way to block 11 defensive players in the box. That was the case in Week 2, when Rockhurst blanked the Wildcats 17-0, allowing just 71 yards on the ground.
“Rockhurst is good, very good,” said Rowley, who will play football at Northwestern University, “but that was also Week 2 of the season. That was a disappointing loss, but Saturday, we have the chance to play them again and we’re working hard to find a way to come out on the winning end.
“I know they’re a better team now, than they probably were in the second week of the season, but I know we’re a better team now.”
The 10-2 Hawklets will play host to the 9-3 Wildcats at 1 p.m. Saturday in a matchup many of the Wildcats were hoping for.
Blue Springs’ other losses came on unsuccessful two-point conversion attempts against Lee’s Summit North and Lee’s Summit West, the first in overtime and the second late in the game. The Hawklets were the lone opponent this season to find a way to dismantle the Wildcats offense.
“What more could you ask for for a state semifinal game?” offensive line coach Joel Page asked before Wednesday’s practice. “You have two of the greatest coaches in the state in Tony Severino from Rockhurst and Kelly Donohoe from Blue Springs and two of the most successful programs in the metro area.
“We’re trying to go to state for the third year in a row, and those big guys up front are going to be key factors to our success. You know, they’re the guys who get no accolades. The only time anyone really notices them is if they are called for a penalty.
“It’s the backs and the quarterbacks who get noticed, but those linemen get noticed by their teammates and their coaches. But they are such a special group – they are blue collar kids who roll up their sleeves and go to work.”
Aveion Bailey, who leads the Wildcats with 1,769 yards rushing, can’t say enough good things about his linemen.
“They’re crazy – crazy good,” said a grinning Bailey. “I don’t care how cold it is, they are out there in short sleeves. They work so hard – everyone on the team pays attention to how hard they work – and they take a lot of pride in what they do.
“The chemistry they have, the love of the game they have, it’s just special. They are my brothers and I am so proud of them.”
Added quarterback Koby Mansfield: “Our offensive line is city boys, country boys, big boys, tough boys – but most of all, they are my brothers and they are winners."