BY JASON PEAKE
Chants of "KRD" filled Cardinal Stadium as the Joplin Eagles began to celebrate a win they'll likely never forget.
On a night they were playing with heavy hearts, the Eagles earned an emotional 35-28 victory over the Webb City Cardinals on Saturday night in a Central Ozark Conference clash that was played in front of approximately 7,500 fans.
The Eagles defeated the Cardinals for the first time since 1990. And they did it for Kadin Roberts-Day, a JHS sophomore lineman who passed away on Wednesday after practice.
"I don't have the words right now," Eagles senior standout Zach Westmoreland said. "We're just thinking about No. 63 (Roberts- Day). This whole game was for him. It's an incredible feeling right now."
The game was pushed back to Saturday in order to allow Joplin's players and coaches more time to grieve the loss of Roberts- Day.
It's safe to say the Eagles were playing for a higher purpose.
"These guys are the most resilient team in the world," Joplin coach Curtis Jasper said. "With what we've been through this week as a family, I can't even begin to explain it. I have no words. It's overwhelming right now. "I just know I love my guys and I love this community," Jasper continued. "Other communities rallied around us, too. Hats off to Webb City. They are nothing but class. We have so much respect for them, not just as a football program, but also as a school and a community."
Webb City was unable to overcome five turnovers. The Cardinals rallied late but fell short despite holding the Eagles to one second- half touchdown.
"You don't win games with five turnovers," Webb City coach John Roderique said. "We were really out of sync tonight. It seemed like an uncharacteristic game for us. It's not rocket science ... we didn't play very well on offense. Congrats to Joplin for playing well."
Joplin finished with 282 yards of total offense, 188 rushing and 94 passing.
Isaiah Davis ran for 91 yards on 18 carries, while Nathan Glades added 59 yards on 13 attempts. Blake Tash completed 9-of-13 passes. Westmoreland caught six passes for 72 yards.
Webb City had 285 yards of offense, 187 on the ground and 98 through the air.
Making the most of Webb City's four first-half turnovers, Joplin took a 28-7 lead into the break.
"I thought we did a good job up front forcing some of those turnovers and we were able to take advantage of those offensively," Jasper said. "That's a good ballclub. You're not going to win against them if you don't take advantage of those."
The Eagles marched 71 yards on eight plays on the opening series of the game, with Tash completing a 6-yard touchdown pass to Westmoreland.
Webb City fumbled on its first play from scrimmage, with the Eagles recovering. One play later, Glades sprinted up the middle for a 14-yard touchdown run.
Down 14-0 right away, Webb City responded by driving 80 yards on 17 plays, capped by a 17-yard touchdown pass from Goddard to Cale McCallister.
Next, the Cardinals were threatening to tie the game when Westmoreland picked off a Kade Hicks pass near the 15 and sprinted 85 yards to the end zone at the 7:59 mark of the second quarter.
After Webb City's third turnover of the half gave the Eagles great field position, Joplin extended its lead to 28-7 when Tash hooked up with Davis for a 16-yard touchdown strike.
In the third quarter, a Cardinal fumble once again gave the Eagles great field position inside the red zone. Davis scored on a 2-yard run a few plays later, putting the visitors up by 28.
The Cardinals cut into their deficit late in the third period when Sergio Perez charged up the middle for a 1-yard score.
After Joplin lost a fumble, Kabala broke a few tackles on the way to a 38-yard touchdown sprint, trimming Webb City's deficit to 35-28 with 9:22 left.
The Eagles ran out the clock after picking up a key first down as Tash completed a pass to Westmoreland after a pass interference flag on the Cardinals kept the drive going.
"We showed resiliency and these guys were playing for each other and they were playing for Kadin and the Roberts-Day family," Jasper said. "I just felt like there was no way we were going to let this one slip away."
"Joplin has some talented kids and they made more plays than we did tonight," Roderique said. "They were an inspired football team tonight."
Joplin Globe 09/08/2019 (Used by permission)