While Blue Springs High School football coach Kelly Donohoe was looking through his overtime script Friday night at Peve Stadium – in a game his Wildcats would win 17-16 – coaching legend Tony Severino was gathering his Rockhurst players on the sidelines to talk about the possibility of a game-winning two-point conversion.
The Hawklets had just marched 90 yards and scored on an 11-yard run by Max Williams, to trail the host Wildcats 17-16 with just 20 seconds left.
“They have that great kicker and I thought Tony was going to go for the extra point and overtime,” Donohoe said. “Then they call the timeout, and I talk to Matt (Marble, the Wildcats defensive coordinator) and he’s got all our defensive kids around him and he’s saying, ‘We’re bringing everybody!’ I love his passion for the game.”
Rockhurst quarterback Nick Smrt had a wide open receiver on the far side of the end zone, but Blue Springs outside linebacker Jackson Boyd stormed past a would-be blocker and hit Smrt as the pass fell harmlessly to the turf.
There was no celebration on the Wildcats’ sidelines though, because there were 20 seconds left, and if the Hawklets were successful on the ensuing onsides kick, place kicker Owen Larson is accurate from the 55-yard range.
“We knew we had to get that onsides kick,” Donohoe said, “and Coop got it for us.”
Cooper Willich, who caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from Dom Harkness, jumped on the ball, setting off the real celebration following another thriller between the two archrivals.
It was the last time Severino, who is retiring after this season following a stellar 36-year career at Rockhurst, would bring his team to Peve Stadium. Before the game, he and two of his longtime assistants were presented plaques and Donohoe handed his longtime friend and mentor a walking cane.
“This rivalry is pretty special,” Donohoe said, “and it’s even more special when we win – especially on a night like tonight.”
With the win, Donohoe improves his record against Rockhurst to 14-19.
“They don’t get much better than Tony and games don’t get much better than tonight,” Donohoe said. “This was just a total team win – offense, defense and special teams.”
The Wildcats looked for a moment like they may run away from the Hawklets as Harkness hit Stef Black on a 21-yard touchdown pass at 7:46 of the first period.
The senior quarterback then found Willich on the far sideline and the crafty wide receiver managed to cross the pylon with the ball as he was pushed out of bounds.
“It’s 14-0 and we’re like, ‘This is a great way to start,’” Donohoe said, “but we knew Tony was going to make adjustments and that they would come back and make it interesting.”
The Wildcats did not score another touchdown as Rockhurst switched from a four-man to a three-man front, adding extra defenders in the secondary.
Williams scored on an 8-yard run at 1:29 of the first period and Lawson kicked a 47-yard field goal to make it 14-10 at halftime.
The unsung hero of the night was Fredy Romero, whose 32-yard field goal at 1:33 of the third period provided Blue Springs with its winning margin.
“We did a lot of good things tonight,” Donohoe said. “Fredy did a great job punting and kicking PATs and that field goal, we got those early touchdowns then did a nice job running the ball late in the game, and I can’t say enough good things about our defense.”
Neither could Marble, who was mobbed by his defensive crew after the game.
“My guys gave it all they had tonight,” said Marble, as the Wildcats held the Hawklets to just 67 yards on the ground and 191 through the air, while sacking Smrt three times and coming up with three other tackles for losses.
“Jackson didn’t start last week, but we knew he could be a key player tonight and he made so many big plays! I’m just proud of all our guys.”
When asked about the big hit on Smrt, a pumped-up Boyd said, “It’s all about giving 110 percent. That’s what we all did tonight for four quarters. Coach Marble had a great game and he wanted us to bring it on that last play and we did.”
The game was part of the United States Marine Corps Rivalry Series, and Harkness, who finished 6 of 14 for 97 yards and two touchdowns, was named the game’s MVP.
“Everyone was an MVP tonight,” Harkness said, after receiving a medal and trophy from a Marine Corps representative. “I started my first varsity game last week at Chrisman, and tonight, I started my first home game against Rockhurst and the feeling tonight is just unbelievable. I’ll never forget how I feel – how we all feel – right now. It’s amazing!”
Micah King led the Wildcats with 80 yards rushing on 13 carries.