By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Webb City senior tight end Channing Mickey has heard it all about the 2016 Cardinals throughout the regular season, especially following an 0-2 start that ended record winning streaks in regular season and conference games.
“They aren’t very physical.”
“They aren’t a real Webb City team.”
“This is the worst Webb City team in 20 years.”
Whatever you want to label this team, just be sure to throw Class 4 – District 5 champions at the end of it, following Webb City’s 27-6 upset of top-seeded Carl Junction Friday night at Bulldog Stadium.
The same Carl Junction team – currently ranked No. 3 in Class 4 – that topped the Cardinals 23-7 in a season-opening win, making Friday that much sweeter for Mickey.
“This is really special,” said Mickey. “We knew we didn’t play very well in Week One and all week we had the score from that game in our minds. To come out and beat a great team like this – our rivals – for a district championship feels great. We want to try to carry on the tradition, that’s what we’re supposed to do.”
On Friday, Webb City did that with good, ole-fashioned defense.
Carl Junction came in averaging 51.5 PPG over their last four contests, led by standout back Rayquion Weston. The sophomore had piled up more than 1,500 yards this season, but Webb City held him to a season-low 46 yards on 17 carries.
Weston had three games all season where he failed to reach the century mark, two of them came against Webb City. The rest of the Bulldogs rushed for a combined 0 yards on 12 attempts.
The Bulldogs were held without a touchdown for the first time in the Buckmaster era.
“When you go against a Doug Buckmaster offense you have to be ready to play every down, every play, all over the field – he’s an outstanding coach and forces you to defend the entire field,” said Webb City defensive coordinator Mike Smith. “Doing that is tough mentally but our kids hung tough and put in exceptional effort, which is the hardest thing to do against a Buckmaster team.”
It was that effort that helped Webb City overcome a first half that saw them extend a drive past midfield just once. The Cardinals went 3-and-out on their first four possessions of the game and didn’t move the ball past their own 30-yard line for the entire first quarter.
But Webb City’s defense neutralized CJ’s advantageous field position repeatedly, holding the Bulldogs to field goal and not touchdowns, even blocking a field goal attempt in the second quarter to help swing the momentum.
The Cardinals got on the board nearly four minutes into the second quarter when Cash Link found Elijah Morgan for a 24-yard touchdown. That drive was extended by a fourth down pass interference call against Carl Junction.
Although the Bulldogs answered with a 36-yard field goal by senior Keagan Peters – sending the teams into the break deadlocked at 6 – the tone had been set for what was a second half dominated by Webb City.
It took Webb City just five plays and 116 seconds to score on its first possession of the second half, capped by the first of two Will Larson touchdown runs.
Both offenses went into hibernation for the remainder of the third quarter, before Webb City threw a pair of hay-makers in the fourth quarter.
The first was a 5-yard touchdown run by Durand Henderson. Henderson rushed for 100 yards on 24 carries, giving the sophomore his second career 100-yard game; both of which have come in consecutive weeks.
Larson would punch in the final score of the game, a 1-yard touchdown run, with just under five minutes remaining in the game. He finished the game with 59 yards on just seven carries – a new career-high.
Link completed 7 of 11 attempts for 101 yards and a touchdown.
“I’m really proud of Cash for stepping up; he did a nice job overall tonight,” said Webb City coach John Roderique. “We made some plays tonight. We were spreading it around tonight and got a lot of different people involved. Will is just a heady player. If there’s nothing there he’ll find a way to bounce it to find something. We were shuffling those backs in there but they were all making plays.”
Carl Junction quarterback Keaton Taber completed 21 of 38 attempts for 272 yards, with Weston (7 receptions, 72 yards) leading the way. Junior Aaron Ludders added 64 receiving yards on a pair of catches.
Webb City has now won 18 straight MSHSAA district championships and the Cardinals are now two wins away from their seventh straight trip to the Class 4 state championship game.
Up next is perennial power Harrisonville, a 33-10 winner over Grain Valley. It’ll be the third straight year these two have met in the quarterfinals, with Webb City taking the two previous meetings by a combined score of 80-7.
Roderique admitted that his scout of the Wildcats would begin taking place as soon as he made it home, but the legendary head coach was beaming with pride from the 48 minutes of football that were the best this overachieving bunch has put together.
“We’re going to do what we’re going to do and it didn’t look very good early, but sometimes it just takes finding a play that moves the chains,” said Roderique. “I don’t think this team could have played any better. This was by far the best game we’ve put together as a team. Very proud.”
Webb City will host Harrisonville on Friday at 7pm.
Webb City 27, Carl Junction 6
Webb City 0-6-6-15 – 27
Carl Junction 3-3-0-0 – 6
CJ – Keagan Peters 24 field goal
WC – Elijah Morgan 24 pass from Cash Link (kick fail)
CJ – Peters 37 field goal
WC – Will Larson 5 run (kick blocked)
WC – Durand Henderson 3 run (Conversion good)
WC – Larson 1 run (Dakota Southard kick)