Wildcats get defensive

Debbie Squires/PrepsKC

By Andy Meyer PrepsKC staff writer
Posted: September 23, 2016 - 11:16 PM

If any questions remained about which program was the best in the metro, Blue Springs answered every single one of them. Emphatically.

The Wildcats put together a complete performance and solidified their claim as the top squad on this side of the state after a 24-7 victory against Rockhurst on Friday.

Blue Springs (5-1) forced five turnovers and relied on an impressive showing from junior running back Jaylen Ivey (189 rushing yards, 2 touchdowns) to prevail in a battle between two of the top-ranked teams in Class 6.

In the process, the Wildcats snapped a three-game losing streak against Rockhurst (5-1).

“Tonight feels good to get that back,” Blue Springs coach Kelly Donohoe said. “It’s a program we have so much respect for. I think there’s a good mutual respect between us, and it’s always a hard-fought game.”

Blue Springs bolted out to a lead on the very first drive of the game that resulted in a field goal, but it wasn’t until the second quarter when the offense really got to work.

The Wildcats scored on back-to-back drives, taking command of the proceedings as Ivey breezed into the end zone both times. His second scoring run was an exceptional display of balance and awareness, giving his team a 17-0 lead going into halftime.

“I think we knew if we kept our momentum up, there was no way they were going to come back and take the game over,” Ivey said.

Blue Springs knew it would need a workmanlike effort from Ivey, in particular, after two of the Wildcats’ running backs missed the game because of injuries. He responded by racking nearly 200 yards on 35 carries in his second game back from a two-game suspension for kicking an opposing player in Week 1.

“Jaylen’s a horse, and he learned a valuable lesson about the mistake he made,” Donohoe said. “And he’s been strong ever since.”

Blue Springs junior Chase Donohoe efficiently quarterback the offense to the tune of 121 passing yards and a scoring strike to Tyree King.

Despite the deficit, Rockhurst clawed back into the game during the third quarter.

The Hawklets compiled a meticulous, 14-play drive that culminated with a Brady McCanles touchdown run, and they had a chance to pull even closer after recovering a fumble at the Blue Springs 44-yard line less than a minute later.

But two plays later, Rockhurst committed its fourth turnover of the night and would get no closer the rest of the way. The week before, Rockhurst generated six takeaways in a winning effort, but committed five turnovers, including two interceptions, two fumbles and a muffed punt.

“Turnovers, it’s always the name of the game,” Rockhurst coach Tony Severino said. “You saw it last week. You saw it plague us this week.

“You know it’s part of football.”

Even so, Rockhurst never backed down, as evidenced by a goal-line stand in the fourth quarter where Ivey was stopped at the 1-yard one on three consecutive runs. The squad’s next drive resulted in a turnover-on-downs, though, and Blue Springs soon tacked on a touchdown to provide the final margin.

“We got the ball off the goal line and got the turnover back,” Severino said. “Then when we turned that ball back over, I think that just took the fight right out of us.”

Throughout the game, Blue Springs showcased just how many playmakers it has on the defensive side, as five different players came up with a turnover. The Wildcats’ had surrendered at least 20 points in every other game this year, but limited one of the top teams in the state to just one touchdown.

“We had a chance to shut them out, and I’m really proud of all of the effort,” Kelly Donohoe said. “Everything was real solid tonight.”

With Ivey’s contributions, the Wildcats’ high-octane offense has shown the ability to put up points from Week 1, but the stellar defensive effort represents perhaps the biggest strides for a Blue Springs squad that has its eyes on yet another state-championship run.

“That was amazing,” Ivey said. “I’ve watched football all my life, and I’ve never seen a defense take over a game the way they did.

“Our offense was doing our job, but the defense really saved that game.”