Toughness was the theme Friday night at Blue Springs South High School.

The visiting Lee’s Summit North Broncos used four Keyon Mozee rushing touchdowns to overcome three touchdown passes by Jaguars quarterback Max Conard, who spent much of the game running for his life, in a thrilling 28-21 Suburban Big Six matchup.

“We’ve challenged Keyon to get tougher,” said Broncos coach Jamar Mozee, a former all-state running back at Blue Springs High School. “Keyon’s my blood, my nephew and he is such a great player but we have challenged him to get tougher and he showed that toughness tonight. He was just outstanding.”

The Broncos coach paused for a moment and asked, “Are you going to see their quarterback after the game? He is one of the best we’ve seen this year, and we’ve played some great quarterbacks.

“When you talk about toughness, I have to mention him. We threw everything we had at him and he made some nice runs – really nice runs at important times in the game – and had those three touchdown passes with our guys right in his face. He stood tall back there. I respect that.”

When that comment was relayed to Conard, who was 15 of 31 for 231 yards and touchdowns of 38, 36 and 21 yards, a thin smile came to his face.

“Really?” he asked. “That’s great their coach would say that. They have a great defense and a great running back. They’re going to have a lot of success in the playoffs and I think we are, too.

“We’re so close. We’ve had so many close losses against very good teams, and that has just made us stronger and more determined than ever. We lost tonight, but we forget about it tonight and we get ready for district next week!”

Keyon Mozee said the win was just what the 5-4 and 3-2 Broncos, who had lost their last two games, were looking for.

“We needed this, needed it bad,” said Mozee, who carried the ball 38 times for 309 yards. “We got it done on offense and defense. Our defense was so aggressive tonight and we scored more touchdowns than they did, and that’s all that matters right now as we get ready for district.”

Mozee started the game with an 80-yard run in which he burst through the initial line of would-be tacklers and used his speed to run away from the pack just 14 seconds into the first quarter.

He then scored on a 12-yard run where he cut right, saw a wall of defenders, and veered left, to score untouched.

That’s when Conard went to work, hitting Qarnayn Lanier on a 38-yard pass to make it 14-7 at 6:23 of the second quarter and that turned out to be the halftime score.

Conard and Cortes Essex hooked up on a 36-yard touchdown pass at 9:22 of the third quarter and the lanky quarterback found Lanier for a 21-yard scoring play to make it 21-14 at 5:57.

But the rest of the game belonged to Mozee and the Broncos defense. Mozee scored on a 2-yard run, that was set up by a 24-yard pass from Carlton Perkins to Jaden Moore, who was shoved out of bounds at the 2-yard line, at 4:13 of the third quarter.

Following an interception by Hunter Ross, as Conard was hit on the pass attempt, Mozee scored the game winner on a 25-yard burst up the middle.

“We wanted to keep their quarterback boxed in, and we were able to do it most of the night,” said North defensive lineman Mark McGhee, “but he is strong and he is brave. He took everything we had and stood back there to throw or run the ball. I have a lot of respect for him.”

First-year South coach Matt Klein said now is the time to start fresh and prepare for district play.

“We’re 0-0 and we need to find a way to win these close games,” Klein said, after his team fell to 2-7 and 0-6. “Max stood tall tonight and we did some good things, we just need to pay attention to details because we did a lot of positive things tonight. But there are things we need to clean up and we’ll work on that this week in practice.”