Ready for some not-so-breaking news? The Webb City Cardinals are still good.
A staunch defense, a high-powered offense and plenty of depth on both sides of the ball were all factors as the Cardinals kept Neosho winless with a 55-6 victory at Bob Anderson Stadium on Friday.
Despite drawing some comparisons to Webb City teams of the past after a loss earlier this season, and hearing the talk even more having struggled each of the last two weeks before coming away with victories, the Cardinals left little doubt that they should continue to rank atop the Missouri Class 3 polls.
It didn't take long for the Cardinals (6-1) to put their stamp on Friday's game. After Neosho won the opening toss but elected to defer to the second half, Webb City's Kiante Hardin fielded the opening kick at his 2-yard line and raced 98 yards to the end zone to give the Cardinals a 7-0 lead just 15 seconds into the contest.
Neosho responded with a 12-play drive on its opening possession that took it as far as the Webb City 35 before turning it over on downs. The Cardinals responded with an eight-play drive that was capped on a one-yard run by Tyson Roderique. A two-point conversion made it 15-0 with 2:45 left in the first quarter.
Following a Neosho punt, the Cardinals went 78 yards on four plays and scored on an eight-yard run by Trey Parra to make it 22-0, where it remained at the half.
Though the Wildcats were still well within striking distance, the Cardinals, it seemed, were only getting warmed up. After forcing a Webb City turnover at the Wildcats’ five, Neosho went three-and-out and punted it back to the Cardinals. Hardin then ripped off his second major return of the night as he brought the ball back to Neosho’s 11, and Parra scored two plays later from seven yards to make it 28-0.
Parra would later go on to add a touchdown run of 34 yards, while Kyle Baldassarre had a three-yard score, Logan Cloyd added a 25 yard TD and Kaleb Potts had a six-yard scamper.
In a game that left the Wildcats with little to no room for error, they simply struggled on offense. It wasn’t until 7:09 remained in the game with the power clock running that quarterback Austin Hailey found Justin McKee on a 75-yard touchdown strike for the Wildcats’ only score. The extra point was blocked.
While the Cardinals plugged up the running lanes and left little room for tailback Davin Bentz to work, the Wildcats struggled to throw the ball at critical times when they needed to. Defensively, the Cardinals ran pre-snap shifts on almost every play to keep the Wildcats guessing as to where rushers were coming and where their coverage was going to be. Still, Neosho coach Dustin Baldwin said it all came down to a lack of execution by the Wildcats.
“We’ve got to do a better job offensively,” Baldwin said. “That’s my fault. I’m going to try to do a better job of correcting that this week.
“We didn’t execute. (The Cardinals) did a good job executing. Their coaching staff does a great job and they’re coached well. We certainly didn’t execute the way that I though we could. We did run the ball decently, at times, but then we’d get in third-and-longs and they are good in third-and-long.”
The important thing for the Wildcats was to put the loss to bed as soon as possible and to focus on finishing the season strong. The tough part of their schedule is now over, as they have winnable games these next two weeks, starting at Republic on Friday before hosting a very Jekyll and Hyde Ozark team in Week 9.
“I told the kids, and this is the first time I’ve ever told them that, but we’ll bury that one and just move on,” Baldwin said. “We’ve got 14 days left in the regular season and we’ve got two games (left) in which we feel like we can compete in and we want to get ready for those games.”