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Eagles’ Elite Eight matchup taking them to KC against well-tested Rockhurst

NIXA'S JACKSON CANTWELL provides pass protection.
NIXA'S JACKSON CANTWELL provides pass protection.

Nixa coach John Perry welcomed the news the Eagles will be headed to Kansas City on Friday for their Class 6 Quarterfinal clash at Rockhurst.

“We don't care where we go play, whether it's Kansas City or Timbuktu,” Perry said. “Give everybody a chance to host a (playoff) game. It will be a fantastic Friday. We're going to make a day of it. We’ll eat at 2:45, come out with our first group at 5:45, come off at 6:30 and play at 7.”

Rockhurst knocked off No. 1-ranked and previously undefeated Lee’s Summit North 24-21 at Districts last week. If North won, Nixa would have hosted the Broncos.

“Lee's Summit North was cruising all year long,” Perry said. “But both of them are really good.

“We want to win a state championship,” he added. “To do that, we've got to win a few more games.” 

Nixa (11-0) is in the Quarterfinals for the first time since 2015, while Rockhurst (10-1) is in the Elite Eight for the first time since 2018.

Just as Perry is in his fourth season at Nixa, Kelly Donohoe is in his fourth season as Rockhurst’s head coach.

Donohoe was already a legend before taking over the helm of the Hawklets. He was 191-53 in 20 seasons as Blue Springs’ coach and won four state championships (2001, 2003, 2012 and 2013), had three state runner-up teams and captured 15 District titles.

Rockhurst’s previous coach, Tony Severino, was on the job 37 years from 1983-2019.

Donohoe is a Harrisonville grad who during his glory days was a quarterback at Kansas from 1986-1989. As the Jayhawks' starter behind center for two years, he threw for more than 5,000 yards .

Not surprisingly given his background, Donohoe has a good quarterback to work with. Rockhurst signal-caller Ethan Hansen has responded to post-season pressure by completing 29-of-39 passes for 411 yards and four touchdowns.

Hansen has 1,500 passing yards and 440 rushing yards. One of his better games was a 242-yard performance that included three touchdowns against St. Louis University High.

Rockhurst’s victory at SLUH saw the Hawklets limit heralded wide receiver Ryan Wingo to six catches for 87 yards. Wingo is a Texas commit and the No. 2-ranked senior prospect in the state.

Rockhurst staged a comeback for the ages to beat St. Thomas Aquinas (Kansas) 45-44 in Week Six. The Hawklets overcame a 28-0 third quarter deficit and still trailed 38-15 midway through the fourth quarter. Hansen thew two touchdown passes to Jack Bichelmeyer and running back Aidan Wright ran for three touchdowns in the stirring comeback.

Rockhurst also won in dramatic fashion 24-21 in Week Four against Bentonville (Arkansas). Logan Kuechler kicked a 41-yard field goal as time ran out.

Rockhurst went three weeks in between games from Oct. 13-Nov. 3. The Hawklets had a first-round bye at Districts, after being awarded a 13-0 victory in Week Nine, with Oklahoma City forfeiting their matchup.

Rockhurst wideout Maeson Tunley is a Central Missouri commit. He has 18 catches for 235 yards. Bichelmeyer has 18 catches for 365 yards and Myles Carson has 20 catches for 315 yards.

Thomas Coppinger, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound middle linebacker for the Hawklets, has received a preferred walk-on offer from Kansas State.

Ryan averages 5.3 yards a carry.

Something to keep in mind given Nixa's penchant for pooch kicks, Rockhurst botched two pooched kicks against SLUH.

Rockhurst’s home turf is Dasta Memorial Stadium and Severino Field.

Rockhurst is an all-boys private school with an annual tuition of $15,300. Its campus sits adjacent to the Missouri and Kansas border. Many of the Hawklets have Kansas home addresses.

The Hawklets are enjoying an exceptional fall sports season across the board.

Rockhurst’s swim team claimed the Class 2 state championship. Rockhurst soccer team is a two-time defending state champion and headed to the Class 4 Final Four, after beating Ozark 2-1 in a Quarterfinal last weekend. Rockhurst’s cross country team placed second at the Class 5 State Championships.

The other Class 6 Quarterfinal matchups include Jackson-Christian Brothers College, DeSmet-Columbia Rock Bridge and Liberty North-Oak Park.