Story changed, statement made.
League newcomer Carl Junction put to rest 39 years’ worth of heartbreaking losses and frustration Friday night, defeating Webb City 23-7 at home in front of an overflow crowd.
It’s Webb City’s first conference loss since joining the COC-Large eight years ago. More importantly for the Bulldogs, it was the first win over their nearby rivals since 1977, and a sweet bit of payback following last year’s 14-7 loss to Webb City in a district semifinals matchup.
“People wondered how Carl Junction would fare in the COC-Large,” said Carl Junction coach Doug Buckmaster. “I think everybody knows, after tonight, that we’re not a pretender but a contender.”
Before the game, CJ’s players entered the field by running through a banner that read, ‘Change the story.’ Buckmaster constantly repeated – or in his case, yelled – the phrase to his players during the game as well.
“The ‘story’ is us always losing to Webb City, always coming up short and not finishing,” said Bulldogs quarterback Keaton Taber, who threw for 179 yards and two touchdowns. “(Buckmaster) just wanted us to change (the story) and go out and actually do it this time.”
Turnovers made all the difference.
Carl Junction’s defense came up with seven takeaways, including six fumble recoveries.
The Bulldogs scored 16 points off of Webb City’s giveaways, including a 15-yard touchdown run by Rayquion Weston with under 10 minutes remaining that made it 23-7 and all but sealed the outcome.
“It’s amazing,” said teary-eyed Carl Junction defensive tackle Zeke Wall, who was still wearing his emotions on his sleeve about 30 minutes after the game. “Change the story. Coach told us all night, ‘Change the story.’ Take every opportunity you have and we did.
“Change the story means to do something we’ve never done before. If we’ve never done something before, we have to take it and do it ourselves. Nobody’s going to give it to you."
Trailing 10-0 at halftime, Webb City quickly made it a game in the second half as quarterback Caleb Ensminger found Blake Catterson on a play-action pass for a 52-yard touchdown.
That score made it 10-7, and the Cardinals’ defense forced a Bulldogs 3-and-out on the ensuing possession.
But on a 3rd-and 10 near midfield, Carl Junction intercepted a Webb City pass and returned it all the way to the Cardinals’ 25 yard line. Four plays later, on 4th and 8, Taber hit senior wide receiver Dayton McIntosh on a comeback route and McIntosh split two Webb City defenders to reach the endzone.
Just like that, a potential go-ahead scoring drive for Webb City turned into a 16-7 lead for the Bulldogs. The Cardinals never recovered, coughing up three fumbles and committing a turnover on downs on their final four possessions.
Buckmaster pointed to a steady stream of penalty flags throughout the game hindering Carl Junction and keeping the game within reach.
“Our defense played awesome and if we had that many turnovers (seven), that’s awesome,” Buckmaster said. “I just sit back and try to wonder how we only won the game 23-7. It felt like the game could’ve been over in the first half. We left many opportunities on the field in the first half. We were penalized heavily. I don’t understand why were penalized so heavily and why some of the calls were made. I have nothing but respect for the referee crew, but they’ve had lot better nights than tonight.”
Carl Junction had at least one certain touchdown called back due to penalty, as a 63-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter was negated by a personal foul on the Bulldogs.
Another key play in the game occurred late in the second quarter with Carl Junction threatening to add to its 7-0 lead, although this one much more bizarre.
On 4th and 3 from the Webb City 6, a Carl Junction pass was intercepted near the right pylon. As Webb City was attempting to return a would-be 99-yard interception for a touchdown, a referee blew an inadvertent whistle, and then a penalty flag was thrown.
The penalty – for defensive pass interference – was wiped away as officials determined the pass was tipped. But the inadvertent whistle wiped away any chance for a Cardinals’ defensive touchdown and the down was replayed.
Carl Junction settled for a 23-yard field goal and took a 10-0 lead into intermission.
The Bulldogs’ defense shut the door on Webb City from there, forcing four second-half turnovers. Ensminger passed for 148 yards, but the Cardinals rushed for only about 100 yards as a team, led by Cameron Baker’s 15-carry, 55-yard effort.
Weston had 23 carries for 69 yards, unofficially, for the Bulldogs. Junior wide receiver Aaron Ludders led the CJ passing attack, catching six passes for 103 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown grab came on a 52-yard pass from Taber on CJ’s first offensive play from scrimmage.
McIntosh added three catches for 61 yards and a touchdown.
“This is one of the best moments of my life right now,” Taber said. “It feels so good to snap their streak and keep our home winning streak (under coach Doug Buckmaster) alive. I can’t even describe how nice it is.”
With a potential district rematch looming in two-and-a-half months, the Bulldogs and Cardinals will go their separate paths for now.
Carl Junction, which is in its first year as a COC-Large member following a stint in the Big 8, hosts Republic next week in a matchup of 1-0 teams. Webb City travels to Carthage, with both teams seeking their first win.
“It’s a great win for our program and our kids,” Buckmaster said. “I have nothing but respect for coach (John) Roderique and his (Webb City) program. They’re the best, we just happened to beat the best tonight. Believe me we’re thrilled to have this happen. They’re going to get better and we may see them again in 11 weeks.”
Carl Junction 23, Webb City 7
Webb City 0 0 7 0 — 7
Carl Junction 7 3 6 7 — 23
Carl Junction – Ludders 58 pass from Taber (Peters kick)
Carl Junction – Peters 23 field goal
Webb City – Catterson 52 pass from Ensminger (PAT good)
Carl Junction – McIntosh 23 pass from Taber (PAT failed)
Carl Junction – Weston 15 run (Peters kick)