Blue Springs South returns to the spotlight
By Matt Gerstner PrepsKC
On paper, Friday’s state semifinal matchup of Blue Springs South and Francis looked like a question of: What happens when an unstoppable force (Howell’s high-powered offense) meets in immovable object (South’s stout defense)?
And for the first half of the ball game, South was the unstoppable force and the immovable object.
The third quarter, however, was the exact and complete opposite. Howell would rip off 21 unanswered points before the Jags countered once more, scoring and icing the game in the fourth.
“Huge game,” offensive lineman Trevor Westcott said. “It took a really big effort from everybody tonight. We said at halftime, ‘It isn’t over,’ and they definitely proved that. But we just kept our focus and didn’t panic and pulled out the win.”
With the win, Blue Springs South will head to St. Louis next Friday to take on Christian Brothers College High School, who beat St. Louis University High School 66-28, for the Class 6 state championship. It is the Jags’ third trip to the Edward Jones Dome in the past six years, their only championship coming in 2006 over CBC.
“That’s crazy,” head coach Greg Oder said at that fact. “But I tell you what, you don’t get this far without good players. And these guys have gotten so much better week after week. The seniors have everyone believing and I’m so proud of them.
“The seniors were 4-6 as sophomores, and now we have a bunch of them as three-year starters. They’re just so smart.”
Jaguar handyman Connor Harris finished just 5 of 7 for 47 yards and an interception through the air, but made up for it on the ground with 114 yards on 27 carries and three touchdowns. Running back Steven Sullivan was not outdone by his backfield mate, gaining 143 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown himself.
“Our offensive line, man, they’ve grown incredibly,” Sullivan said. “We talked in the huddle in the fourth quarter and said, ‘We’ve got to get this drive in,’ and things worked out for us. Our coaches said it was one of our best drives of the season.
“We just stuck with it throughout the whole game, and I’m just so proud of our line, because without them, we may not have won.”
After Howell was stopped on the opening drive, South would be stopped on 3rd and 1 and would have to punt. But an illegal substitution penalty would give the Jags new life, and they would take advantage, driving 85 yards, capped off by a 43 yard Harris touchdown run.
The Jaguar defense would force a three-and-out immediately after, and South would drive 51 yards, ending on an 8-yard touchdown run from Harris.
Ben Harvel would pick off Howell quarterback Eric Siebenshuh on a long ball to the endzone, and Harris would cap off the ensuing 80 yard drive with his third touchdown run of the night, this time on 4th and 6 from 29 yards out (Harris would miss the extra point).
The Vikings would drive to the Jaguar 22 yard line before South would hold and partially block a 43 yard field goal attempt to lead 20-0 at half.
Then came a “scary” third quarter, as Sullivan put it.
South would go three-and-out, and Siebenshuh would turn on the lethal offense, connecting on passes of 17 and 15 yards to get the ball down to the 1 yard line, where he dived over the line on 4th and goal to put Howell on the board.
Harris would then throw an interception at his own 29 yard line to give the ball back to Howell. The Jaguar defense made it 4th and inches from the 20, but Howell would convert. Two plays later on third down, a pass interference call in the endzone would give the Vikings a first down inside the 10. Siebenshuh would lob a pass across the field into the endzone that would nearly be picked off by Harris, but Josh Haarman would take it away, and with the extra point, Howell pulled to within 6.
Another three-and-out by the Jaguar offense would give the awakened Howell offense a chance to take the lead, and they would take advantage, driving 54 yards with Siebenshuh, who finished 18 of 34 for 187 yards and two touchdowns, connecting with Corey King to give the Vikings the 21-20 lead.
“That quarterback can throw,” Oder said of Siebenshuh. “He’s hard to get to, and if you don’t get to him, it becomes backyard football, and they’re very good at that. They made an adjustment at halftime, and it really got us off balance.”
But as the fourth quarter began, Harris and Sullivan showed once more how lethal the Jags’ offense can be. Starting at the 22 yard line, the backfield duo would punch, slash, and bowl their way down the field, culminating in a 10 yard touchdown run for Sullivan.
“I think the offense energized the defense at that point,” Oder said. “They were kind of getting tired with their hurry-up offense, and I think that touchdown for us really picked them up.”
And as he’s done so much this season, Harris would come up big on both sides of the ball, picking off Siebenshuh with 3:14 left in the game. With a couple of first downs, the Jags had punched their ticket to St. Louis.
But as South celebrated with the throngs of fans that came down for the game, they knew it was only for tonight.
“The kids realize it,” Oder said. “They were already talking practice by the time we got in the locker room. They understand that we’ve got another week of practice, and we’ve got to make it count.”
Blue Valley North Mustangs
Hogan Prep Academy Rams
Park Hill South Panthers
Shawnee Mission East Lancers
Van Horn Falcons
Grain Valley Eagles
Mill Valley Jaguars
St. James Academy Thunder
Raytown South Cardinals