The colder it gets the closer we get to the end of the Missouri high school football season. The 2018 season has been a season of balance. The talk was of the evenness of the Kansas City teams as they approached the state championship games.
Lee’s Summit North had its best season in its 23-year history finishing in a tie for the conference championship with Lee’s Summit West, which had another great season. Park Hill and Liberty dealt North both of its losses in the regular season. West had impressive wins over ranked teams Columbia Rock Bridge, Blue Springs and Staley.
Blue Springs South had a tough regular season, but the Jaguars played well at the end of the season and upset the No. 2-seeded district team Troy Buchanan.
The three Class 6 schools that did not play in the large school division of the Suburban Conference but were highly competitive were Liberty North, Liberty and Lee’s Summit. Ray-Pec had a solid football team but only managed three victories because of the intense competition in Class 6.
None of the Class 6 schedules were a cakewalk. Each week all of the teams faced a team capable of beating them. Still, the state semifinals will come down to the same two teams to beat over the last 30-plus years in Kansas City. Blue Springs and Rockhurst will face off on Saturday at 1 p.m. to see will move on to face either CBC or Joplin for the state championship.
The rivalry between these two teams has stood the test of time. It begins with Hawklets coach Tony Severino. He is a Kansas City legend. People cry about the advantages of the big elite private school. It might have certain advantages, but its talent has to be motivated to play at a high level year in and year out. Severino has accomplished that for over three decades. All that winning creates a lot of jealousy and excuses for public school teams who cannot beat them.
Bottom line – to win a state championship at the Class 6 level a team must beat Rockhurst. Blue Springs, a powerhouse public school, has been battling tooth and nail with Rockhurst for 36 years. Blue Springs, led by coach Kelly Donohoe, has been able to compete with them well enough to be mentioned in the same breath when speaking about a state championship victory. The entire paper could be filled with the staggering winning statistics both schools have piled up through the years.
The real story is how these two coaches have been able to sustain their records and statistics for such a long period of time. Both schools have been blessed with great athletes year after year which is the first step to develop a great high school team.
The one thing both schools have in common is they play the best in order to be the best. In 1986 a board member came to us to say that they did not want to play Rockhurst anymore. They had a preconceived notion that Blue Springs could not compete with Rockhurst because of the perceived advantages of a private school.
Thank goodness the administrators agreed with the coaches that if Blue Springs was ever going to attain their goal of a state championship, they would need to learn how to beat the Rock. The rest is history.
When football season begins each year, fans will wonder how good Blue Springs and Rockhurst will be. Without a doubt, Blue Springs would not be the strong program it is today without having Rockhurst to strive to beat. They have played each other many times in the same district when both teams were the best two teams in the state. Unfortunately, one of the two teams could not move on in the playoffs.
With the new district alignment, both schools have made it all the way to the state semifinal game. The coaches and players of these two programs have shown nothing but class and respect for one another throughout the years. It is a testament to both Severino and Donohoe and their entire staffs. They have had a few bumps in the road, but this rivalry is about mutual respect.
Players blessed to have Severino or Donohoe as a mentor have grown into better men. Both coaches are approaching the end of their careers, but they will always be remembered as leaders of two great high school programs that have been measuring sticks for football in the Kansas City area.
Attend Saturday’s game if you can to watch two legendary programs go head-to-head one more time. The great Vince Lombardi probably explained it best, “The important thought is that the Packers thrived on tough competition. We welcome it; the team had always welcomed it. The adrenaline flowed a little quicker when we were playing the tougher teams.”
• My quote of the week comes from former NFL linebacker Tom Cousineau: “It is inevitable that we all will endure setbacks – losses. If you have not lost, you have not played enough games. Never be afraid to compete. Gain the strength and courage to try as hard as you possibly can, and play, play, play!”
– Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School and is a host of a weekly radio show, “Off the Wall with Tim Crone,” on KCWJ (1030 AM) 6 p.m. every Monday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.