By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
In the fourth quarter on Friday night, John Roderique found himself wondering what he’d be doing with his night if he wasn’t spending it coaching the Webb City football team.
Just two days earlier, word came from Carthage that the week’s highly-anticipated rivalry game was being canceled as several Tigers entered quarantine.
A couple hours later, the Cardinals had a new opponent in Kickapoo, a school they hadn’t played in 13 years. The Chiefs had also lost their week four game when Parkview was forced to call it off.
And so it was that Friday’s unlikely matchup came to be.
And just like the last three times the two schools played – 2007, 2006 and 1991 – it ended in a Webb City victory as the Cardinals rushed for 393 yards and out-gained the Chiefs by 269 en route to a convincing 38-10 victory
“I think one of the things that Nate Thomas and I talked about, what we’re in this business for is for kids and just letting those kids have the opportunity to come out here and play, we don’t have to keep score,” Roderique said. “Just giving those kids the opportunity to play.”
Of course the scoreboard was working on Friday night and the Cardinals lit it up often in the first half. They took a 14-0 lead after forcing Kickapoo to go three-and-out on its first two possessions of the game.
The first resulted in a bad snap on a punt attempt and gave the Cardinals the ball at the Kickapoo 28. Junior Cade Wilson scored from the 1-yard line five plays later.
After a Kickapoo punt, Webb City started at the Chiefs’ 32 following a long return. Quarterback Cole Gayman passed to senior Mekhi Garrard in the back of the end zone on first down and just like that the Cardinals led by two scores.
Two defensive stops by Webb City were pivotal in the first half.
The first came when senior Treghan Parker recovered a fumble in the end zone after the Chiefs had marched to the Webb City 10. The Cardinals followed that up with an 80-yard scoring drive capped by a 1-yard Devrin Weathers run.
Now trailing 21-0, Kickapoo advanced all the way to the Webb City 16 on its next possession before it was forced to settle for a field goal.
Junior Nick Quadrini nailed the 33-yard kick, but Webb City responded with another 80-yard scoring drive and a 13-yard Weathers touchdown; the senior Kansas State commit at one point had a defender with a solid grip on his jersey and another who looked set to make a form tackle. He backtracked, bounced outside and scored easily.
Webb City led 28-3 at halftime.
“Their football team made plays,” Kickapoo coach Nate Thomas said. “When they needed to make a play on third down they made it on both ends of the field. We came away with a field goal we were happy with but you’ve got to be able to capitalize in the red zone against a great team like Webb City.”
Weathers added a 71-yard touchdown on the third play of the third quarter for good measure.
“Their special players made some special plays tonight,” Thomas said. “Nine came spinning out of two long runs where we thought we had him bottled up. There’s a reason that young man is going to K-State. He’s an impressive football player.”
He finished the game with 147 yards and three touchdowns on nine carries.
“Just what a magnificent player he’s been,” Roderique said. “You can see his running ability has just improved each year he’s played for us. He’s become a little more powerful, a little stronger runner this year.”
Webb City senior Cameron Clark booted a 22-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to make it 38-3.
Another long return by senior Kevin Ward gave Kickapoo possession at the Webb City 28 on its ensuing possession and sophomore Samias Pickett scored on a 10-yard run with 6:15 left in the game.
The Cardinals racked up 449 yards of offense on 57 plays. Gayman completed 4-of-6 passes for 56 yards and a score and he added 53 yards on the ground. Wilson rushed nine times for 57 yards and a touchdown.
“Felt like kind of a workmanlike game,” Roderique said.
The Cardinals recognized the team’s 37 seniors before the game and each of them played. None received a louder reaction than Cail Tingle, who entered for a play in the fourth quarter and lined up as a wide receiver.
“He’s been in our program for a long time and hasn’t had a lot of opportunities to play,” Roderique said. “You could kind of see by the reaction of our players how much it meant to see him in the game and get an opportunity to get out on the field. Every once in a while he’ll tug at my shirt and ask about going in. He’s a good kid.”
Webb City improved to 3-1 with the win and took a 4-3 lead in the all-time series against Kickapoo, which started in 1979.
“It ain’t anything different,” Thomas said of his impression of the Cardinals after a 13-year absence. “They’re still the powder blue machine. There’s no doubt about it.”
The Chiefs fell to 3-1 with the loss. They finished with 180 yards. Adam Miller was 2-for-5 passing for 61 yards and Ward rushed 10 times for 47 yards.