By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
There was a familiar feeling in the air Friday night in Webb City.
The Cardinals’ 37-14 victory against Bolivar provided the school its 20th-straight district championship and marked the sixth time in a dozen years that Webb City ended the Liberators’ season.
“It’s not something we sit around and talk about as coaches,” Webb City coach John Roderique said of the district streak. “Obviously everybody that plays that’s one of your goals when you start the season is trying to win a district championship and trying to advance on into the playoffs. I guarantee you 20 years ago we wouldn’t have thought that this would be the case but we’ve certainly had some really good battles and played some really good teams over the years.”
Bolivar, the third seed in the Class 4 District 6 bracket, entered the game undefeated and averaging 48 points per game. But the Liberators only managed 50 yards in the first half against a Webb City defense that was allowing fewer than 10 points per game.
Bolivar drove to the Webb City 36-yard line on its first possession of the game but turned it over on downs. The Liberators recovered a fumble at the Webb City 39 later in the quarter but threw an interception on first down.
By halftime the Liberators had turned it over twice and punted five times.
“They play good defense and I think that’s something that gets overlooked at Webb City but they do, they play a very good scheme defensively,” Bolivar coach Glen Johnson said. “They take away what you do well and that’s just good coaching. They took away things that we did really well all year. They schemed well. It was a good coaching move on their part.”
The top-seeded and Class 4 top-ranked Cardinals, meanwhile, flashed their big-play potential while building a 23-0 halftime lead. Senior quarterback Kade Hicks threw a deep pass to junior receiver Mekhi Garrard that turned into a 53-yard touchdown on the Cardinals’ second play of the game.
After Junior Shane Noel picked off a pass by Bolivar senior Hayden Burks at the Cardinal 21, Webb City junior Devrin Weathers ripped off a 75-yard touchdown run to make it 14-0.
Senior running back Terrell Kabala added a 2-yard touchdown in the second quarter to cap an 11-play drive and junior kicker Cameron Clark booted a 29-yard field goal before the half.
“We hit a couple big plays in those first couple series and that kind of sparked us a little bit and gave us more confidence going forward,” Roderique said.
The Cardinals opened the second half with an 11-play scoring drive and led 30-0 after Hicks passed to Garrard in the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown on fourth-and-five.
Bolivar then drove from its 35 to the Webb City 9 before missing a 31-yard field goal.
Kabala broke loose for a 58-yard run to the Bolivar 4 on the ensuing Webb City possession and then punched it in with a spin move around a defender. The extra point made it 37-0 and put a running clock in place.
The Liberators ended Webb City’s bid for a fifth shutout this season early in the fourth quarter when senior Eathen Dinwiddie scored on a 2-yard run to finish off a 72-yard drive. Bolivar added an 81-yard drive and a Burks-to-Parker Erickson touchdown for 24 yards in the final minutes of the game.
“It seemed like defensively we were kind of in a bend but don’t break mode,” Roderique said. “Not that you want to be but you could see why they’ve been so successful, why they were 11-0. They do some great things. They’ve got some really talented players.”
“In games like this you can’t stall and we haven’t had a ton of resistance inside the redzone,” Johnson said. “Obviously they did a good job of taking away what we do in the redzone. It stinks to have to learn from a loss when you don’t get to play next week. There were definitely some missed opportunities but when you play a good football team that’s what happens.”
Webb City finished with 434 yards of offense and limited Bolivar to 250. Hicks was 4-of-6 passing for 85 yards and two touchdowns, Weathers rushed 13 times for 144 yards and a score and Kabala added nine carries for 99 yards and two scores. Garrard caught four passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns.
Burks completed 12 of 27 passes for 114 yards and a score. Dinwiddie rushed 19 times for 87 yards.
Webb City, 11-1, will travel to unbeaten Camdenton next week in the quarterfinals.