It didn’t take Blue Springs High School football coach Kelly Donohoe long to come up with the perfect one-word description for running back Aveion Bailey, The Examiner’s 2018 Offensive Player of the Year.
“Warrior,” Donohoe said of the senior running back who finished the season with 281 carries for 1,814 yards (6.5-yard average) and 19 touchdowns.
He was a member of the Missouri Football Coaches Association Class 6 All-State second team, all-district, All-Suburban Big Six and a Simone Award semifinalist.
“Aveion is one of the toughest runners in the history of our program, and we’ve had some tough guys, some great backs – but we put so much on his back this year and he never backed down or failed to accept a challenge,” Donohoe continued
Because the Wildcats did not have the high-flying passing game of past teams, many opponents would place 8 to 10 defenders in the box, daring Bailey to run the ball.
“We saw that as a challenge, Aveion saw that as a challenge, and we accepted it and had a pretty good season,” said all-state offensive lineman Conrad Rowley, who along with Jack Johnson, Beau Stephens, Jessup Leakey and Patrick Robinson plowed the field for Bailey, who had that rare combination of power and speed that allowed him to burst through an initial wall of tacklers and elude members of the secondary.
Johnson agreed, adding, “We knew if we gave Aveion any type of opening he could take it all the way. We’re all brothers on this team and we work hard for each other. Aveion made us (members of the offensive line) look good all season.”
Donohoe chuckled when asked about any highlight moments from Bailey and his linemates.
“We’re watching film and I swear, there were a couple of times he had a full head of steam and a someone would step away instead of trying to tackle him,” Donohoe said. “That’s what type of power he has.”
Bailey, a soft-spoken team player who eludes the limelight like he does most would-be tacklers, used the occasion of winning the award to spotlight his teammates and coaches.
“Coach Donohoe always put me – put us – in the best position to have success,” said Bailey, who expects to go the junior college route next fall. “And my line, what can I say about those guys? They’re the best. They’re my brothers.
“They had to block eight, nine, 10, 11 guys all season and they did it and they did it great. I can’t say enough good things about them and Koby (Mansfield, the senior quarterback), who did a great job running the offense, and all the guys on offense.”
Bailey’s ground attack helped the Wildcats compile a 9-4 record and reach the Class 6 state semifinals for the third straight season.
“There have been a lot of great players win this award and I never even thought about winning it,” Bailey said. “It’s the best honor I could ever receive and I want to share it with everyone on our team.”