Best in the West

As the game clock melted toward zeros on Friday night, Blue Springs High School faced a 21-10 loss to crosstown rival Blue Springs South. Ryan White, the 5-foot-8-inch, 250-pound senior tackle for Blue Springs, stormed up and down the Wildcats’ sideline, fury boiling from his pores. He ripped off his helmet and repeatedly slammed his naked forehead against the chest of a teammate while screaming, “We will not lose to Rockhurst! We will not lose to Rockhurst!”

White was wailing about his next game, this Saturday’s matchup with the Rockhurst Hawklets. Before its November 8 loss to South, Blue Springs had already prevailed in its brutal district, earning a state quarterfinals slot against Rockhurst on November 16. Blue Springs remains the defending state champion — and Rockhurst’s only real obstacle to completing a dream season that has the Hawklets ranked in the top ten nationally.

Back in week two of the season, Rockhurst beat Blue Springs 24-14. But Kevin Sears, Rockhurst’s 6-foot-3-inch, 230-pound senior linebacker, isn’t satisfied. “We still owe them for ending our season last year,” he says.

In fact, over the past three years, Blue Springs has handed Rockhurst its only two defeats. Since Kelly Donohoe took over as head coach at Blue Springs in 2000, his team has lost only four times; three of those losses hang on Rockhurst’s crowded mantle.

In the state championship game a year ago, Donohoe’s undefeated Wildcats dismantled the highly respected St. Louis-area Hazelwood East team, 28-12.

The season before that, Rockhurst finished an undefeated state-title season inside the St. Louis dome. After that win, USA Today named Tony Severino, Rockhurst’s revered head coach, 2000’s high-school coach of the year.

A little trash talking doesn’t hurt to feed a rivalry. Phil Mayfield is Blue Springs’ 5-foot-10-inch, 185-pound big-play wide receiver and kick returner. His feet are almost as fast as his mouth.

“We know we’re good enough to beat Rockhurst. I can guarantee you they won’t see the same team that they saw [tonight],” Mayfield said after Blue Springs’ loss to South. “Rockhurst has good corners and everything, but seriously, when we play like we can play, I don’t think there is anybody that can guard our skill guys. Period.”

Rockhurst has traveled to Chicago and Minneapolis this season to knock off two of the better teams in the Midwest. Dan Boyd, Rockhurst’s massive tackle, considers Blue Springs to be as good as any team they’ve faced. “Everybody says we played great teams around the nation,” Boyd says. “But I really believe that Blue Springs and Blue Springs South are some of our best competition.”

Stinson Dean, Blue Springs’ talented junior quarterback, is thankful for the second chance at Rockhurst. “I made some mistakes in that first Rockhurst game that I don’t even think about doing now,” Dean says. “I’m at my prime right now, and I’m hot right now. I’m just ready to play.”

Rockhurst’s junior running back Tony Temple has been almost invisible this season, after a media frenzy surrounded him his first two years. All that will change this week. He’s the perfect blend of power and speed. “He’s running as if he were possessed,” Severino says. (The University of Missouri agrees; Temple was in Columbia to watch the Tigers play Colorado last Saturday.)

Temple’s counterpart at Blue Springs is Andrew Tuggle. Last year, the less-heralded Tuggle outplayed Temple both times they met. This year, Tuggle has struggled while Temple has blossomed. “I don’t really say much. I try to lead by example,” says the 205-pound Blue Springs senior. “But I’m gonna have to say something to the team this week. I do not want to go out losing to Rock my senior year. We’ll be ready.”

The Missouri Class 6 state championship football game is set for November 29 in St. Louis. But the best two teams meet this Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in Blue Springs.

Categories: A&E