One step away

Courtesy of The Examiner

By Dion Clisso PrepsKC Managing Editor
Posted: November 18, 2016 - 7:59 AM

There is just one more game left and the last two teams standing in Missouri Class 6 are Kirkwood and Blue Springs.

The Wildcats are back in the Class 6 title for the first time since winning back to back titles in 2012 and 2013. Kirkwood is in its first Class 6 championship contest but the Pioneers are no stranger to championships winning the Class 5 trophy in 2012. Kirkwood also played for a Class 5 crown in 2006 and 2011 so playing late in November isn’t a strange phenomenon for either program.

Blue Springs enters with two losses the last coming in the final week of the regular season. The Wildcats have won four straight since that point and now face a Kirkwood team that has won 11 straight after losing to Chaminade in the first week of the season.

The road to the championship game has been paved with big wins for Blue Springs. The Wildcats are averaging 47 points a game in the postseason with an offense that has become an unstoppable force. Blue Springs punishing rushing attack held the ball for 34 of 48 minutes in a 35-21 win over CBC in the semifinals and now they look to do more of the same.

“Thank god we are peaking there at the right time,” Donohoe said. “Our kids have been playing well up front on both sides all year but they are just really honed in right now and been playing so well.

“We’ve been really fortunate that even though we’ve had a lot of injuries this year our front line guys have stayed healthy and our defensive line guys have stayed healthy. We knew going into the season that was a strength of ours. They’ve continued to work really hard every week and get better and better. It’s very comforting knowing every week you’ve got really good dudes up front.”

Kirkwood’s defense that is charged with stopping that attack is coming off a game against Rockhurst where they forced four turnovers and bottled up the Hawklets all night. The Pioneers were able to shut down the Rockhurst run game and force three interceptions to go along with a fumble.

Pioneers coach Farrell Shelton said that getting the Blue Springs offense off the field will be key.

“I think first down is going to be crucial for us,” Shelton said. “The last thing you want that offense to do is be sitting there at second and five. That’s not going to wind up good for us. First down is going to be big for us. Tackling is space, we are going to have to be great one-time tacklers. We are going to have to be able to tackle and get them to the ground. Winning the little yards, making sure the running back doesn’t fall forward a yard, making sure we keep them where they are at or make them go backwards. We are going to have to win those hidden yards so we have a chance late to win the game.”

The task is tall for Blue Springs as well. The Wildcats will need to try to slow down Kirkwood’s quarterback Reece Goddard. The senior has thrown for 2,416 yards and 21 touchdowns while only throwing five interceptions. He is also the team’s leading rusher with 627 yards and 13 TDs. Goddard’s ability to make plays with his feet and arm will challenge the Blue Springs defense all night.

“He reminds you of a Tim Tebow,” Donohoe said. “He is the kind of kid that is going to find a way to win. He is that kind of kid you would die to have on your team but unfortunately we have to coach against him. He’s very special.”

For the first time in almost two decades the game is being played outside in the elements and wind and cold could be a factor as well. Strong north winds could play havoc on the kicking and passing games and those factors are worth watching.