Just enough for the win

Steve Bubalo/PrepsKC

By Steve Bubalo PrepsKC Senior Writer
Posted: November 17, 2018 - 2:08 PM

Rockhurst had seen its 14-3 lead over Blue Springs slowly dwindle away Saturday afternoon in the Class 6 state semifinal, and with just a little more than four minutes left in the game, it looked as if the Hawklets were about to face their first deficit.

Trailing 14-13, Blue Springs had recovered a Jalan Crayton fumble deep in Rockhurst territory. The Hawklet defense - like they have done all season - held tough, but the Wildcats were still well within field goal range for kicker Fredy Romero, who had already hit 29 and 31-yard field goals.

As Romero prepared for a 30-yard field goal to give Blue Springs its first lead, Rockhurst head coach Tony Severino approached his special teams unit.

“We work on the middle block all the time but we’ve never run it in a game,” Severino said. “I asked the guys if they wanted to run it and they said, ‘coach, we can get it’.”

And get it they did.

Junior Tommy Eckels came flying off the edge and blocked the kick. The Hawklets would run the clock out from there and hang on for a 14-13 victory.

“We blitzed up the middle,” Eckels said. “(Andrew) Stafford pushed the guard out. There was a giant hole in the ‘A’ gap. … I went untouched.”

“That field goal block was tough,” Blue Springs head coach Kelly Donohoe said. “We work with our field goal team all the time. We figured if we kicked a field goal it would be tough for them to get the lead.”

The Rockhurst offense started hot, scoring a pair of touchdowns in the first quarter on two Jalan Crayton 7-yard runs to take a 14-3 lead. The second touchdown wasn’t without controversy, as the Hawklets never should have had that possession.

After Blue Springs kicked a field on its opening possession, Rockhurst was unable to secure the ensuing squib kick and Blue Springs recovered inside the Hawklet 30. Only problem was, a referee had inadvertently blown his whistle thinking that Rockhurst had possession of the ball, nullifying the Wildcat recovery and giving the ball back to the Hawklets.

Four plays later Crayton found the end zone for that 14-3 lead.

“It was huge,” Donohoe said of the inadvertent whistle. “They went down and scored on that series. We tell the kids we’re never going to blame the officials. Those calls average out over the course of the season, it’s just hard to get that call in this game. … To the refs credit, he said, ‘coach, that’s my fault’. He thought their kid had it. He owned up to it.”

From there, the Wildcat defense clamped up, and for the most part, so did Rockhurst’s. Blue Springs only managed 143 total yards, but thanks to a short field on four different possessions, the Hawklet defense had to come up big like they have all season long.

On those four possessions the Wildcats started with the ball inside Rockhurst’s 40-yard line. They only managed a touchdown on one - a 29-yard touchdown pass from Koby Mansfield to Cooper Willich - along with a pair of field goals and the blocked field goal on the last series.

“That’s who we are,” Severino said of relying on the defense. “We do what we can with the talent we have. We’ve built this team around our defense.”

Added Donohoe: “We had opportunities. We had a couple of short fields. They have a really good defense. They made it hard on us.

“…I’m really proud of the guys. To start 1-2 and still get all the way to this game… we played a lot of newbies this year.”

Rockhurst is now 11-2 on the year and will get a rematch with CBC in the Class 6 title game. The Cadets beat Rockhurst 45-7 in October, and the Hawklets could be without two key offensive starters in running back Michael Johnson - who missed his second straight game - and quarterback Luke Boehm, who left late in the first half after a helmet-to-helmet hit.

“We’re just glad to be going back and we’re going to do the best we can,” Severino said. “CBC is the most talented team we’ve played. I told the team after they beat us they would beat us nine times out of 10. We just have to beat them once.”