BY JASON PEAKE
John Roderique couldn't have summed it up much better after his Webb City Cardinals earned a 49-21 homecoming victory over Willard on Friday night in Central Ozark Conference action at Cardinal Stadium.
"It wasn't perfect, but we did what we needed to do," Roderique said. "Overall, it was a good learning experiencefor us." Ranked second in Class 4 by the Missouri Media, Webb City hiked its record to 5-1 after a fourth straight win. But as the veteran coach noted, it wasn't always smooth sailing for the Cardinals in this one.
Ignited by a quick start, Webb City built a 28-0 lead. But the Tigers (2-4) didn't go away as they cut their deficit to 14 by the end of the third period.
But after what could be called a mid-game lull, the Cardinals finished strong as a pair of unanswered fourth-quarter scores allowed them to secure a convincing win.
"Our guys up front did a fantastic job," Roderique said. "I thought our run defense was really good and our offense did some really good things tonight."
Webb City recorded 393 yards of offense, 330 rushing and 63 passing.
Junior running back Devrin Weathers ran for 135 yards on 13 carries with two touchdowns, while senior quarterback Kade Hicks contributed 96 rushing yards and two scores. Cameron Clark made all seven PAT kicks. The Cardinals had two turnovers, a lost fumble and an interception.
Willard had 357 yards — 217 passing and 140 rushing. Reece Dawson completed 16-of-28 passes, with Noah Pfeifer makingseven catches for 88 yards. Marshall Swadley ran 11
times for 88 yards to lead Willard's ground game.
On the opening series, Webb City's defense stopped the Tigers on the 1-yard line to force a turnover on downs. The Webb City offense then scored 28 unanswered points.
A 33-yard touchdown run by Weathers and Hicks' 6-yard QB keeper gave the hosts a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Eli Goddard completed a 17-yard touchdown pass to a leaping Mekhi Garrard before Brayden Bond recovered a Willard fumble on his team's 14. The Cardinals extended their lead four plays after the takeaway when Weathers charged into the end zone from three yards out, making it 28-0.
However, the game's momentum soon changed.
Finishing an 85-yard drive, Willard's Dawson connected with Maurice Grayer for an 8-yard touchdown strike with three minutes left in the first half. The Tigers then recovered a Webb City fumble on the first play of the third quarter, and three plays later converted the turnover into a 6-yard touchdown run by Thomas Frandsen, trimming their deficit to 28-14.
"It seemed like we let off the gas a little bit defensively,"Roderique said. "I thought we lost a little intensity on defense. We had a few breakdowns and Willard made some good plays."
After a nice kick return by Dillon Harlen gave the Cardinals great field position, Perez scored on a 9-yard run for a 35-14 advantage. But Willard's Dawson scored on an 11-yard QB keeper with 7:08 left in the third period to cap a 74-yard drive, cutting Webb City's lead to 14.
"We felt like we didn't have the momentum there, but we were still up 14 points," Roderique said.
"There were some things we didn't do well, but we took advantage of our possessions on offense and we got scores when we needed them."
Webb City's Bond blocked a field goal attempt late in the third quarter and Willard's first drive of the final frame resulted in a turnover on downs. With that, Webb City's defense rose to the occasion.
"Our defense is what it is because of our coaches," said Bond, a senior defensive end who made five tackles, including three for a loss to go along with the fumble recovery and blocked field goal. "They put in a lot of time during the week and they prepare us well for each game. Willard has size and they're a good team. But we felt like we had a speed advantage with our defense tonight."
Fourth-quarter touchdown runs from Hicks (six yards) and Bronson Alcazar (seven yards) put the game away.
Webb City will look to make it five straight wins next Friday at Republic (2-4).
"I think we're playing pretty well right now, but we're not satisfied," Bond said. "You can never be satisfied."
Joplin Globe 10/05/2019 (Used by permission)