A lesson learned in the regular season is better than one digested in the playoffs.
That’s what they hope, anyway.
Among the three Kansas City-area football teams still alive in the Missouri state playoffs — Blue Springs, Osage“>Fort Osage and Harrisonville — two of them were issued an important warning before the calendar even turned to October.
Blue Springs, which will travel to De Smet for the Class 6 state semifinal tonight, is coming off an emotional win against Rockhurst, one of its top rivals.
Sound familiar? It should.
The Wildcats improved to 3-0 with an impressive two-touchdown victory against Rockhurst in the third week of the season. A week later, though, Blue Springs dropped its only game of the fall — an uninspiring 35-28 overtime loss to Lee’s Summit West.
“We came out and played a real intense game,” Blue Springs coach Kelly Donohoe said of the Rockhurst win.” And the next week, we didn’t play with the same intensity, and look what happened.”
Donohoe then repeated the message he’s sent to players this week.
“This time of year, you do that, and you’re going home,” he said.
Harrisonville can rely on similar flashbacks. The Wildcats, 11-2, are set to play host to Jefferson City Helias in the Class 4 semifinals at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
Harrisonville already defeated Helias — 38-37 in overtime on a successful two-point conversion run from Zach Davidson — in the season opener. Same venue, same opponent. But it’s not all good news for the Wildcats. A week after that victory, they were trounced in a 28-12 loss to Savannah.
After allowing his team a couple of days off from practice to celebrate a 28-7 victory against Platte County last week, coach Chuck Lliteras planned to remind his team of that Savannah game before training Tuesday.
His players, though, didn’t need any reminders.
“I expected it to be a challenge,” Lliteras said. “But when they came back for practice (Tuesday), they were already focused. There was no mention of our previous game.
“That tells you all you need to know about our seniors. They’re great leaders.”
Another senior-laden squad, Fort Osage, is 12-1 heading into tonight’s Class 5 showdown with Ozark. Fort Osage may not have have any experience to draw from, but its coaches are delivering the same message.
After three tightly contested losses to Staley over the past two seasons, Fort Osage earned some playback with a convincing 20-3 win in the quarterfinals. Quarterback Steven McBee called it the most important win of his high school career, but then he offered caution.
“It was a huge win, and it was a struggle for us,” McBee said. “Each round you go through the playoffs, it only gets tougher.”
A mere 30 seconds after Fort Osage’s win, coach Ryan Schartz opened his postgame huddle by reminding his team to enjoy the victory — well, for the bus ride home anyway. After that, the process of watching film and preparing for Ozark began.
The key to this week’s preparation, Schartz said, has been an emphasis on the game ahead and rarely a mention of the past. He hopes to be repeating that speech following tonight’s game.
“We’ve got everybody patting them on the back and telling them how good they are, but you have to stay focused on this week,” Schartz said. “If you notice, the teams that advance are the ones that stay focused and don’t get satisfied. We’re not satisfied.”