BY JASON PEAKE
After sitting out in Week 3 due to an ankle injury, Ruben Lenker was eager to once again make an impact for the Webb City Cardinals.
In his return to the gridiron, it didn't take Lenker long to make his presence felt.
A senior linebacker, Lenker returned an interception for a game-changing touchdown on the first play of the game's third series, providing a key boost of momentum the host Webb City Cardinals never relinquished en route to a 42-0 victory over Branson on Friday night in a Week 4 Central Ozark Conference clash at Cardinal Stadium.
"I didn't get to play last week, so I was pumped to come back," Lenker said. "I wanted to make some big plays and that's what I did."
On the first play of Branson's second drive, the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Lenker picked off a pass from Pirates quarterback Dalton Muenchau and sprinted 21 yards to the end zone, giving his team an early two-score advantage.
"The ball came straight to my numbers," Lenker said. "I juked a guy to get into the end zone and we were all pretty hyped."
Ranked third in Class 4, Webb City hiked its record to 3-1 by pitching a shutout for the second time this fall.
"It was a pretty good night for us," Webb City coach John Roderique said. "It wasn't perfect, but for a Week 4 game, I thought we played pretty good. Our guys did a really good job up front and our quarterbacks did a nice job."
On a night they debuted new dark grey uniform tops, Webb City compiled 356 yards of offense, with 279 rushing and 77 passing. The Cardinals did not punt the entire night and Webb City's six touchdowns were scored by six different players.
Webb City's stout defense limited Branson to 88 yards of offense, 72 through the air and just 16 on the ground. The Pirates (1-3) committed five turnovers.
The Webb City defense was led by Brayden Bond, who recorded eight tackles, including four for a loss.
The Cardinals scored 28 unanswered points in the one-sided first half.
After forcing a quick three-and-out to start the night, the Cardinals took over with great field position on the 36. Five plays later, Weathers charged into the end zone from three yards out.
"We took control early in the game," Roderique said. "Our defense had a good first series and then we got things rolling on our first drive. We did a nice job offensively of moving the ball and putting points on the board."
Lenker's pick-6 gave the hosts a 14-0 lead, and the Cardinals never looked back.
"Any time you get a defensive score it's big and your chances to win go up for sure," Roderique said.
After Treghan Parker's interception gave the Cardinals the ball on the 5-yard line at the end of the first period, Hicks plunged into the end zone on the first play of the second quarter on a QB keeper, making it 28-0.
Branson had two scoring chances inside the 5-yard line late in the first half, but the Pirates came up short both times, with the Cardinals stopping a QB keeper on the first series and Shane Noel intercepting a pass on the second drive.
"That was just guts by our kids," Roderique said.
In the first series of the third quarter, the Cardinals marched 62 yards on six plays, capped by Terrell Kabala's 1-yard score. Dillon Harlen's two-yard touchdown run gave the hosts a 42-0 lead with 2:22 left in the third period and was the final score of the night.
"Our defense played great and our offense played well too," Lenker said. "This is a good win for us and we're going to continue to work hard."
Webb City travels to rival Carthage next Friday night.
Joplin Globe 09/21/2019 (Used by permission)