Coach Kelly Donohoe (far left) with the Rockhurst football captains. // Photo courtesy Rockhurst High School.

Return of the Rock

By Max Goodwin

In one of the season’s most anticipated games, Rockhurst (6-1) prevailed 21-14 over Kansas’ Bishop Miege (5-1).

Rockhurst avenged a loss suffered at Miege last season that ended with the Hawklets on the goal line, unable to score a touchdown that could have tied the game. In 2018, the two schools restarted this rivalry after decades of dormancy. Rockhurst has won four of the six games.

Head Coach Kelly Donohoe is in his fourth season at Rockhurst with a talented senior class. It all seems to be coming together this season for the Hawklets. They were 1-4 after losing to Miege last year. Now, they are 4-1 heading into a matchup at St. Thomas Aquinas. Rockhurst always expects to be one of the best teams in the state, and for the first time in years, they are a contender. 

The only loss has been to Liberty North, one of the best teams in the state. That game was a 35-7 beatdown. But Rockhurst then went to Bentonville and beat one of the best teams in Arkansas. 

Players were absorbed in the matchup against Miege all week. “It was a hyped-up week for sure. I know it was on their end, too,” Rockhurst quarterback Ethan Hansen said.

It was as big for Hansen as anybody. He went to Miege as a freshman and played for Miege Coach Jon Holmes before transferring to Rockhurst. He started as quarterback for Rockhurst in his sophomore season and is now in his third year as a starter. 

“I know a ton of those guys,” Hansen said. “I know Coach Holmes, great coach. It’s a great program, but the change was good for me. It was what I needed.”

The experience he’s gained playing quarterback for three years is showing in his senior season. He’s a dual-threat quarterback who’s leading Rockhurst back to the level they played at for decades. 

Legendary Rockhurst Coach Tony Severino stood on the field a half hour before the game, watching the team stretch with his grandson. Severino won seven state championships, with the last one being 13 years ago.

The Hawklets have struggled to hold their heads above water with Donohoe as coach so far, going 14-14 during the three years. But this year’s senior class were freshmen when he was hired; the first class he’s had a chance to coach from start to finish of high school. 

Like Hansen, Donohoe also knows what it’s like to be on the opposing sideline against Rockhurst in a rivalry game. For years in the early 2000s, Rockhurst’s biggest rival was Blue Springs. Both teams were regular contenders for a state title. Donohoe was the head coach of Blue Springs. 

Friday night’s game was a big moment for both Hansen and Donohoe. Against the Stags, Rockhurst faced a strong defense, a a sturdy running game, and a coaching staff eager to draw up trick plays. 

Miege running back Danny Garcia threw a touchdown pass from a flea flicker, and on a 4th and one play, tight end Hollis Moeller was disguised as a blocker but instead extended out for an open route, catching the ball and finding no safety. He ran 31 yards for a touchdown.

“We held them to 14 points, and we’re still disappointed because we had some mistakes that led to those,” Donohoe said after the game. 

Hansen controlled the edge rushers of Miege with a quarterback read that he seemed to guess correctly each time. 

“His read game was perfect. They were starting to pinch hard on the edges. We practice it every day. He just did what he practices. Just pull it and go,” Donohoe said. 

Hansen ran for his third touchdown of the season on a play like that, pulling it and running for a 17-yard touchdown. He also threw for 155 yards and a touchdown. Wide receiver Maeson Thunley caught the touchdown pass on a 32-yard go-route and went for 85 receiving yards receiving.

Running back Aidan Ryan ran for 145 yards and provided the most efficient option for Rockhurst. Ryan’s tough running allowed Rockhurst to take the final minutes off the clock with a one-touchdown lead. 

“To take seven minutes off the clock, especially when they know we’re going to have to run it,” said Donohoe.

Rockhurst may not be overloaded with talent like Liberty North or Lee’s Summit North. But they have a complete team that can play solid in all three phases. It’s hard to argue that Rockhurst isn’t one of the best teams in Missouri this year. 

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