The last few years the annual Blue Springs-Lee’s Summit game has been must-see high school football.
Three years ago, the Wildcats had to overcome a halftime deficit for a high-scoring 58-45 victory. Last year, it was a last-second hail mary that led to a 27-23 Blue Springs win.
This year, it was the Blue Springs defense that got the job done in the clutch. A goal-line stand by the Wildcat defense as time expired preserved a 23-20 victory.
“I’m unbelievably proud,” Wildcats head coach Kelly Donohoe said. “We are 3-1 but we’re two plays away from being 1-3. The kids have worked their butts off.”
A 27-yard pass from Darrias Pearsall to Ryan Belt set the Tigers (1-3) up at the Wildcat 2-yard line with less than a minute to play. Those 2 yards ended up being crucial.
“We were supposed to score on that fade to Ryan,” Lee’s Summit head coach Eric Thomas said.
Back-to-back runs were unsuccessful and put the Tigers back on the 3. Pearsall had a pass go off Max Whisner’s fingertips on third down, leaving Thomas with a decision on fourth. Kick the field goal for overtime or go for the win.
There was no hesitation.
“I told my coaches, I never thought about kicking until Kelly (Donohoe) said something after the game about how it takes guts not to kick it there,” Thomas said. “I thought we had the momentum going.”
The fourth down play went poorly from the start, as Pearsall faced almost immediate pressure from Nicholas Durant and Eli Stewart. He backpedaled and heaved the ball into the air, only to have it intercepted by lineman Donovan Romero.
“They tried to put the ball in the quarterback’s hands all game, so I knew they weren’t going to change that,” Durant said of the final play. “I still had to make my reads, but when I saw the quarterback pull, I made my move. We knew we had to give it our all on that last series.”
In the early going, it looked as if Blue Springs was going to run away with a win. Midway through the second quarter they were up 16-0 and were dominating on both sides of the ball. The Tigers hung around with a late touchdown drive in the second quarter to make it 16-6 at the half.
The Tigers marched right down the field to start the third quarter, covering 80 yards in just eight plays as Pearsall found Belt from 11 yards out, and just like that, it was 16-13.
Their backs suddenly against the wall a bit, but the Wildcats responded. The offense had gone stagnant since the first quarter but put together what turned to be the game-winning drive, going 80 yards in seven plays. Quentin Fontenot capped the drive with a 7-yard touchdown run to make it 23-13.
“That was a huge drive,” Donohoe said. “That was maybe our best drive of the year considering they had all the momentum. That’s how we have to respond.”
Pearsall found Belt one more time, this time from 14 yards out, to cut the deficit to 23-20 midway through the fourth quarter before ultimately coming up a few yards short.
“The kids fought in the second half. I’m proud of them,” Thomas said. “We just have to find a way to put together a complete game. We’re right on the cusp of being a good football team.”
While Lee’s Summit is trying to find a way to finish games, Blue Springs won its second tight game of the season.
“It shows our mental toughness,” Durant said. “We’ve been down at times, but we have to fight through it. All four quarters, we can’t quit.”