Ready to Roar
By Dion Clisso PrepsKC Managing Editor
The measure of a program isn’t how many titles it has won, it’s how many times they don’t make the playoffs.
For Blue Springs the titles are there. The Wildcats have won three state championships in the last 20 years and played for another one. Over that same time Blue Springs has only missed the playoffs five times. Since the turn of the century the Wildcats haven’t seen postseason play only twice in 2005 and last season.
Missing the playoffs in Blue Springs doesn’t happen very often. Last year the Wildcats went 7-3 and came one game short of the post season. It was a young team that saw as many as 10 sophomores start in some games.
With that much youth Blue Springs played like a young team. There was a blowout loss to Rockhurst in the first game followed by another big loss at Staley in week No. 2. The Wildcats seemed to get things going as more and more underclassmen took to the field. In the first week of district play Blue Springs topped rival Blue Springs South 26-21 and another playoff run looked like a certainty.
“We knew last year there was no margin for error with that football team,” Wildcats’ coach Kelly Donohoe said. “I really though they achieved a lot last year. At the beginning of the season if you would have told me that team would be conference champions, I would say take it right now. It’s disappointing when you are used to being in the playoffs and you get knocked out at the end.
“I will always say I am very proud of that group of guys. Where ’05 was a very tough year looking back, I will never look back and say that was a bad year for us. I will always say it was a good year for us. Sometimes you don’t quantify it with wins and losses you do it with how the kids played.”
While the Jaguars would recover from that loss and go on to win the Class 6 state title, the Wildcats fell to Columbia Rock Bridge in the final week of the season and found themselves on the outside looking in.
Blue Springs was a young team with a lot of potential and played like it most of the season. When it was over the thoughts quickly turned to 2012 and possibilities of a talented and now experienced group would bring.
This season 17 starters returned and that number could even be considered higher as players like quarterback Wylson Lamb saw significant playing time due to injuries. Lamb entered his senior year as the starter for the first time but with plenty of time under his belt after last season.
Missing the playoffs was a huge motivator for Lamb and the rest of his teammates this offseason.
“We were a young team last year, everyone knew that,” Lamb said. “Last year really helped us for this year. The offseason we were all thinking we don’t want to have a season like last year and not make the playoffs. That just made us work even harder and get everything done a lot quicker.”
So far this year the Wildcats look like a team on a mission. They opened at St. Joseph Central with a 56-13 win. In that game Blue Springs led 49-0 with six minutes left in the first half. Most of the starters only got 20 plays as the Wildcats rolled to the win.
Last week Blue Springs turned in another impressive performance topping Park Hill South 35-13. The Wildcats led 35-0 in that game before the Panthers pushed across two late touchdowns. Even in a driving rain storm that made play a bit sloppy Blue Springs found a way to light up the scoreboard when most games in the Metro were played in the single digits.
This week Blue Springs travels to Rockhurst to renew one of the great rivalries in the Metro. The Hawklets look like a vulnerable team after a loss to Bentonville, Ark., but the Wildcats have seen this before. In 2009 Blue Springs opened with two easy victories and then hosted a 1-1 Rockhurst. The Hawklets left Peve Stadium with a 17-3 win over a team that would eventually play in the Class 6 title game.
Whether this team gets a win Friday or makes it all the way to St. Louis is yet to be seen, but it does look like a strong regular and post season is in the future for these Wildcats.
“Because of the amount of kids that played last year that are back for us especially that played in that South game that helps them to realize they can be a special group this year,” Donohoe said. “The thing I like about this group is I think about this football team is this isn’t the group that isn’t worried about looking cool. They are worried being better. I like that about them. I like the senior leadership we have. I just think they are a group that when they get tested they are going to be able to respond because we are going to get tested quick.”
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