It’s business as usual for the Blue Springs High School football team.
Members of the offensive line are joking on the sidelines at Peve Stadium while quarterback Koby Mansfield is tossing the football around near the end zone.
The coaches make their way to the field from their office, which is located just across from the empty locker room, and one by one, the remaining players who had to get taped or meet with trainer Steve Morrow make their way to the field long before practice begins.
“Do you realize how many other teams in the state would like be where we are today?” asked all-state offensive lineman Conrad Rowley. “And every team in the state would like to be at Rockhurst Saturday.
“Three years in a row – the last two, we get to the championship game, and Saturday we play to go to state for the third year in a row – that’s special. We’ve overcome so much this year. We’re not going to let anything stand in our way, preparing for Saturday.
“Lee’s Summit North or Rockhurst – two teams that got us this year – we would have been happy to play either one of them. We play the Rock, and we’re going to be ready.”
North ended an 18-season losing streak to Blue Springs by edging the Wildcats 28-27 for one of the Broncos’ biggest wins in school history.
The Hawklets blanked Blue Springs 17-0 in the second game of the season and Rockhurst stopped North 10-3 last week to set up the 1 p.m. Saturday Class 6 semifinal matchup at Rockhurst’s Dasta Memorial Stadium.
“We have so much respect for Rockhurst,” said all-state linebacker Austin Stuller, who played just a half against the Hawklets after suffering a concussion in that game. “Every time Blue Springs and Rockhurst play it’s a big game, but they don’t get any bigger than the game Saturday.
“We want to go to state for the third year in a row, and if we do, we have to play a lot better than we did the first time against them.”
The Hawklets held the vaunted Wildcats running game to just 71 yards. Nick Wood, who is out for the season with a high ankle sprain, led the team with 39 yards. Aveion Bailey, one of the premier runners in the state, who has 1,600 rushing yards, had just 17 yards rushing on 16 carries.
The Hawklets put nine, 10 and sometimes 11 defensive players in the box, daring the Wildcats to pass the ball. The scheme worked.
But, that was then.
“That was the second week of the season,” offensive line coach Joel Page said, “and we’ve seen a scheme like that, or something like that, every game since then. We’re made adjustments and we’re playing much better now.”
The offensive line of Rowley, Jack Johnson, Jessup Leakey, Patrick Robinson and Beau Stephens are ready for any challenge that might come their way Saturday.
“That first game, it was five guys blocking against 11 guys and they got the best of us,” Johnson said. “I don’t think there’s a defense we haven’t seen since that game, our coaches have made adjustments and we’re ready – I mean, we’re really ready.
“We’ve had a great week of practice and we can’t wait for Saturday.”
Bailey isn’t about to give any quotes that could provide motivation to the Hawklets, but he is hoping for a much improved game Saturday.
“They stopped me last time,” Bailey said, “but we’re all going to work hard so that doesn’t happen this week. We respect Rockhurst – they put it to us the first game, but with my brothers blocking for me Saturday, we’re ready.”
Blue Springs coach Kelly Donohoe announced earlier in the week that he is dealing with cancer in the pelvic region, and has undergone radiation treatments every day this week.
“But that hasn’t kept Coach Donohoe from coming to practice,” Stuller said. “He’s a beast. He’s coaching like he’s always coached. No distractions this week – just a lot of hard work, getting ready for the game.”