Webb City started the 2016 season in a very un-Webb City-like way. The perennial juggernaut opened with back-to-back losses to COC Large rivals Carl Junction and Carthage.
After that, Webb City turned things around and won nine of its final 11 games that included exacting revenge on Carl Junction in the Class 4 – District 5 Championship game. The Cardinals would ultimately come up just short against eventual Class 4 champion Harrisonville in a 27-21 loss in the quarterfinals.
“We just started slow. We weren’t a very good football team early in the season,” Webb City head coach John Roderique said. “We felt really good about where we went from Week 1 to Week 12. It was disappointing for us against Harrisonville. We didn’t play as well as we did the week before. We felt like we were right there at the end. We just didn’t get it done in that Harrisonville game.”
Webb City will lose three all-state players from last year’s team including Trey Gibson (first team defensive back), Channing Mickey (second team tight end) and Jarren Taylor (third team defensive end).
One all-state player in offensive lineman Landon Bebee does return. The 6’3, 295-pound center has received offers from more than 10 FBS and FCS programs.
“He has the body type and he has got pretty good film. He has played against some pretty good people and been pretty successful for us. A lot of them (recruiters) said they like the way he gets off the football,” Roderique said.
Grant Fowler will help anchor the line with Bebee as they open up holes for Roderique’s triple option offense.
The backfield will turn to the trio of junior Durand Henderson and seniors Will Larson and Luis Perez.
Henderson is the leading returning rusher after taking 98 carries for 667 yards and six touchdowns as a sophomore. He came on at the end of the year averaging 135 yards per game on 48 total carries in the last two games of the year. He logged just 50 carries in the first nine games of the season.
Quarterback is an open competition between senior Cash Link and junior Cade Beason. Both saw time under center last season. Link threw for 674 yards and rushed for another 350 yards. Beason threw for 164 yards and rushed for 106.
“We will feel confident with either one of those guys going into this year with both of them having so much experience from last year,” Roderique said.
Top receiver Alex Gaskill returns for his junior year after a standout sophomore campaign. He led the team in both receptions (35) and receiving yards (368). Sophomore Terrel Kabal had 300 yards receiving as a freshman last year to finish second on the team.
Gaskill will be looked upon to lead an inexperienced secondary on defense after graduation hit the unit hard.
The Cardinals will be helped by returning a strong defensive front. Three of four linebackers return led by all-conference seniors Jordon Rogers and Javis Berlin. Rogers tallied 102 total tackles in 2016 while Berlin had 88 tackles of his own. Senior Breyn Surber and his 49 tackles round out the experienced linebacking corps.
“We have a lot of depth at the linebacker position this year. They are going to be like a lot of guys on the offensive side. Last year they were very green going into the season and now they have a season under their belt,” Roderique said.
The defensive line also has a strong and deep group returning led by Tylor Morehead, Bryce Wilson and Elijah Robinson. Webb City had 15 sacks as a team last year, and 12 of those sacks return this season.
“We have done some different things over the last couple years in personnel trying to get more speed on the edges. It will be an interesting year because I think we have an opportunity to put some really explosive kids at the defensive end positions and still have some anchors on the inside,” Roderique said.
Webb City will open its season on Aug. 18 at home against rival Carl Junction.