Blue Springs gets defensive

Debbie Squires/PrepsKC

By Steve Bubalo PrepsKC Senior Writer
Posted: October 16, 2015 - 10:55 PM

A week before playoff play begins, the Blue Springs defense appears to be hitting its stride.

The unit put together another strong performance Friday night, not allowing the Lee's Summit North offense to find the end zone in a 23-15 victory to improve to 4-5 on the season.

"I’m really proud of our defense,” Blue Springs head coach Kelly Donohoe said. "They played well all night. We did a nice job of shutting down their running game.”

North running backs Tori Hicks and Chase Swischer had trouble finding any room to run all game long thanks to a strong front seven of the Wildcats.

"Coach (Derek) Wilson always talks about stopping the run game first,” defensive lineman Tauivi Olamaleva said. "The defensive line, we have the same attitude, we have the same effort. When we do that the defense comes together.”

With the running game struggling to gain any traction, the onus was on the Bronco passing game and they were inconsistent throughout the game.

Despite some big pass plays to Cameron Hairston, they struggled to get much going. Nate Webb started the game at quarterback but in an effort to try and spark the offense a bit, head coach Jamar Mozee also turned to junior Caleb Aston on a few drives.

"We’re trying to find something. Someone who can be consistent,” Mozee said of the quarterback position. "We missed some passes. We struggled at times. Our intermediate passing game wasn’t good.”

It was a defensive battle in the first half and it appeared the Broncos would go into the half with a 6-3 lead after a second field goal from Brad Bennett put them ahead with just 26 seconds left.

But Blue Springs returned the kickoff to their own 44 and with 18 seconds left on the clock, took a shot down the field and connected, as Dylan Cowling hooked up with Kori Cheatham for a 56-yard score and a 10-6 lead.

"That was a big play,” Donohoe said. "We felt Kori had a good chance against their corner to make a play. That was a huge play to give us some momentum at the half.”

Mozee wasn’t surprised the Wildcats went for a big play before the half, despite so little time left.

"I figured they would take a shot. We were just in man and they beat our guy,” he said.

North cut the deficit to 10-8 early in the fourth quarter when a high snap on a punt went out of the back of the end zone.

A couple of drives later for the Bronco offense, inside their own 10, Swischer coughed up the ball and Blue Springs would recover for the second forced turnover of the half for the Wildcat defense.

Three plays later Cowling lofted one up to 6-foot-6 Tanner Taula for an 8-yard touchdown and a 17-8 lead with just 4:35 left to play.

But North came right back with an 87-yard touchdown return on the kickoff from Duan Hampton to cut the deficit to 17-15.

Blue Springs didn’t let off the pedal on its next drive. Codie Bell had a great return to the Bronco 32 and after fourth- and third-down conversions, Tresten Spruell scored from 2 yards out for a 23-15 lead with 1:21 left.

North would get into Wildcat territory with the clock ticking but a sack by Johnnie Middleton iced the game.

Webb and Aston were consistently under pressure from the Wildcat front seven and it led to just four first downs, two turnovers and three punts in the second half.

"Someone was always coming,” Olamaleva said. "When that happens the quarterback starts to get shaky with the ball. … Credit to the front seven. We brought pressure and we trust our secondary.”

Next up for both teams is playoff action, with their opponents yet to be determined.

Each team seems to be heading in different directions. North is now 5-4 and have lost three in a row, while the Wildcats have won four of their last five after a slow start to the season.

"We can play with people,” Mozee said. "This game could have easily went either way. They see that. We just have to get rid of our mistakes. We’ll be fine.”

Donohoe wanted to see a little better effort from all phases of the game Friday night, but he knows one unit is where it needs to be.

"We’re thrilled. We’ve won four of five,” he said. "We wanted to see improvement across the board tonight and didn’t really see it in the offense or on special teams. But the defense is where you win championships."