By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Webb City won’t lack any motivation entering John Roderique’s 23rd season.
The Cardinals are coming off of a Class 4 Final Four run that ended in a 17-14 loss to Ladue Horton Watkins at Cardinal Stadium. The following week Ladue drilled MICDS in the state championship game, 48-11.
Roderique returns just eight starters from that group, graduating standouts like Alex Gaskill (Pitt State) and Durand Henderson (Northwest Missouri State), but fans around the COC should expect a reload as opposed to a rebuild.
Junior Devrin Weathers will be at the core of the 2019 Cardinals.
As a sophomore he rushed for 978 yards and 12 touchdowns despite being limited in Webb City’s final few games due to injury. He’s already receiving heavy Division One interest in both football and baseball.
“He’s an outstanding athlete and competitor; a very talented football player,” said Roderique.
Senior Sergio Perez (269 yards, 3 TDs in 2018) will also see reps at running back. Classmates Bronson Alcazar and Dillon Harlen, as well as sophomores Dupree Jackson and Cade Wilson, could also see carries this fall.
They’ll follow a loaded offensive line.
Junior Zetthew Meister returns after starting as a sophomore, earning All-COC honors. He’ll be joined by seniors Brayden Wilson (6-2, 240lbs) and Ethan Vowell (6-1, 255lbs).
Junior Grant Goltra (6-5, 260lbs) is also expected to compete for a spot. He missed his entire sophomore season with a knee injury, but has recovered nice and performed well at several Division One camps and combines.
Senior Colton McKee (6-2, 200lbs) and junior Gary Clinton (6-4, 220lbs) will start at tight end. Clinton is yet another kid receiving college interest, including some D1 sniffs.
Senior Cale McCallister and Junior Mekhai Gerrard will see an increased role after rotating in last season.
Junior Jaystin Smith, who was penciled in to start as a sophomore before tearing his ACL last summer, and sophomore Cohl Vaden could play major roles on the perimeter. Both could see reps on either side of the ball.
Who will throw them the ball comes down to a competition between senior Kade Hicks and junior Cole Gayman. Fellow junior Eli Goddard has also looked good throughout the competition. Hicks was an All-COC linebacker in 2018.
Roderique is confident that all three quarterbacks can do the job if called upon.
Defensively, the Cardinals return several horses from a unit that allowed just 11.8 PPG in last season.
Four-year starter Terrell Kabala is back for his senior campaign after earning all-state honors last season (40 tackles, 2 INT). Kabala tallied three defensive touchdowns in addition to his 388 receiving yards and four scores on just 19 receptions.
He’s already given a verbal commitment to continue his athletic career at Arkansas-Fort Smith (basketball).
Senior inside linebacker Ruben Lenker, who led the Cardinals with 118 tackles and 14 TFL in 2018, is back after earning All-COC honors as a junior. Lenker also wrapped up a Blue-Grey All-American Bowl invitation after a stellar spring/summer.
Classmates Brayden Bond (88 tackles, 6 sacks), Trenten Thompson (79 tackles, 10 TFL) and Gavin Surber (76 tackles, 7 TFL) all return after being named All-COC as juniors.
McCallister (4 INT in 2018) and fellow senior Tanner Rogers will return to the secondary. Junior Shane Noel could also see reps at corner.
Under Roderique’s leadership, Webb City has won 21 conference titles and 20 district championships in the last 22 years.
As the Cardinals look to deliver Rod’s 12th state championship, they’ll do so in a more competitive landscape locally.
COC foes Joplin and Carthage all also represented the area in the Final Four last year.
Webb City will see Joplin at home in Week 2 and Carthage on the road in Week 5, adding even more spice to the rivalry.
Everyone in the league is chasing Webb City for the COC crown. But, with increasingly likelihood that the Cardinals move to Class 5 before new MSHSAA rules go into effect in 2020, there’s a chance WC could have to knock off a number of conference rivals twice.
The increased talent in the area will make the fall even more exciting.
“It was a very good year for the Joplin area last year in football,” said Roderique. “All five COC teams were in top half of conference. There are very good coaches and players in our league. Very unusual to have that many teams from one area playing to the semi-finals in different classes. I hope we are hungry. We will see in time.”
Webb City will open the 2019 season on the road against Carl Junction on Aug. 30. The Cardinals will host Joplin in their home opener the following Friday.