By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
There was one play etched in the mind of Webb City coach John Roderique after Friday’s quarterfinal game against Lebanon.
With the Cardinals clinging to a 14-8 lead with just seconds remaining in the first half, Lebanon lineman Garrett Childers scooped up a fumble and sprinted toward the north end zone. He would have scored if not for Webb City junior Dupree Jackson, who chased him down from behind and made a tackle inside the 10-yard line as time expired.
“That was the play of the year for us,” Roderique said. “The whole complexion of the game could have changed on that one play and certainly if they go in at halftime up or even tied it could be a whole different ballgame.”
Jackson’s tackle preserved the Cardinals’ lead, and they added to it with a three-score burst in the third quarter en route to a 42-14 win against the Yellowjackets.
Webb City, 11-1, will host 11-1 Platte County at 1:30 p.m. next Saturday in the Class 5 semifinals.
“When you start getting to this point, you start thinking about where you were the beginning of the season,” Roderique said. “Obviously you try to improve every week and that’s something we preach every day here. Just to go from where we were there say in week one to where we are now, it’s a big difference. Proud of our kids and our coaches for staying the course and just continuing to work.”
In week one the Cardinals suffered a 41-40 loss at Joplin. They’ve won in convincing fashion virtually every week since, and Friday marked the fifth-straight game the team has scored at least 42 points.
But at halftime against Lebanon the locker room was “a little bit dead,” according to Roderique. That was after a first half in which the Cardinals possessed the ball less than five minutes and struggled to get the Yellowjacket offense off the field. Lebanon had a 7-minute, nine-second drive of 16 plays and another 22-play drive that ate up more than nine minutes.
“They really didn’t know what to think,” he said. “They’d been getting beat up on the field so really that’s one of those times when you go in there as a coach and there’s no sense in yelling and screaming. They probably feel bad enough as it is. You just try to calm them down a little bit and say just go do your job and go play.”
It was effective. Webb City scored in six plays to open the third quarter and led 21-8 after a 38-yard touchdown run by Jackson.
Three plays later Lebanon fumbled at its own 38 and Webb City senior Devrin Weathers punched it in on a fourth-and-goal at the 2 to make it 28-8 with 5:17 left in the quarter.
Then senior Eli Goddard picked off a pass and returned it 20 yards for another score with 3:44 left in the third.
That effectively put the game out of reach.
“We got some other kids on the field defensively and I thought we played a lot better defensively as far as slowing them down,” Roderique said. “Of course we got some turnovers in there but offensively, I mean this one goes to the offense I think because they really did a great job there especially when we needed it in the second half to get a little cushion.”
The Yellowjackets scored on a 5-yard run by sophomore Nathan Bartell with 7:28 left in the game. Webb City’s Jackson added a 4-yard score with 4:58 remaining.
Lebanon was hampered by turnovers all night, tallying six of them. The first came on the game’s opening drive. Lebanon marched from its 31 to the Webb City 8 and them fumbled near the goal line on the 16th play of the drive. The Yellowjackets fumbled again on first down at their own 41, setting up a 31-yard touchdown run by Weathers to open the scoring.
He added a 1-yard score to make it 14-0 with 10:31 left in the first half.
Lebanon answered with a 22 play, 74-yard scoring drive and pulled within six points after senior Drew McBride scored from the 2 and junior quarterback Peyton Mitchell passed to senior Cordell Zebel for two.
Lebanon recovered the ensuing squib kick and had the ball at the 36 with a minute left in the half but Webb City’s Treghan Parker picked off a pass and returned it to midfield. Two plays later came Jackson’s touchdown-saving tackle after the Webb City fumble.
Webb City’s Cale Stephens added an interception at the Cardinal 8 at the end of the third quarter to halt another Lebanon drive.
“Obviously that was the difference in the game,” Roderique said of the turnovers.
“Anytime you get that many you’re going to have a chance to be successful,” he said. “That was a huge difference in the game for sure.”
Lebanon out-gained Webb City 290 yards to 270 and ran 78 plays compared to Webb City’s 37. Cole Gayman was 4 of 7 passing for 56 yards, Weathers rushed 16 times for 112 yards and Jackson added 107 on 9 carries. Cohl Vaden had a 29-yard reception.
Lebanon’s McBride rushed 29 times for 103 yards and Bartell added 69 on nine carries.