Upstart Cardinals close in on first Frontier League crown since 1972
Home-field advantage paid off last week as the Cardinals corralled Prairie View in a 23-22 nail biter. But let's hope they don't get too comfortable at home because a Homecoming win over the Baldwin Bulldogs could give them a share of their first league title in 28 years.
"We've just got to stay focused," said coach Aaron Barnett. "We have a little motto, we want to be 1-0 at the end of the week. We don't care about what's going on in the week ahead."
Eudora now is in a five-way tie for first place in the Frontier League and one big game away from sub-state play. But to stay atop the league it will have to escape Baldwin (4-1), which crushed Anderson County (0-5) last Friday 41-6.
"It's Homecoming, it's an arch-rival, Baldwin," Barnett said. "We've got to put one more nail in the coffin for a league title. There's a co-league championship at stake."
The Bulldogs, one of the five teams in first place, come off a powerful passing game led by quarterback Heath Knight, who passed for 412 yards including an 85 yard touchdown play and added another 90 yards on the ground Friday night. But Barnett said he wasn't worried.
"We're not going to do anything special," Barnett said. "He threw for 400 yards against a team who hasn't won a game in three years, so it's a little deceptive. I think we're a little bit better than Anderson County."
Instead, the Cards will need to continue playing the way they did in what Barnett called the most complete game the team has played this season.
And, Barnett said one of the major obstacles this week would be the homecoming week distractions.
"Homecoming week is the hardest week to coach," said Barnett, who is 2-0 in homecoming games since coming to Eudora. "We're really going to have to focus and remember the point of homecoming week and that's to win the football game."
But when game day rolls around, Eudora's offense will have to continue to put points on the board through both the run and the pass, which the Cards used more of against Prairie View.
The Cardinals will need to come out with the same defensive intensity they showed late in the game against Prairie View from the get-go Friday night an intensity that caused four crucial turnovers.
After a rocky first half, where the only points came from a fumble recovery in the end zone by junior Zac Tyler after senior Brett Becker knocked the ball loose, the Cards bounced back and the players found a way to get back in the game.
"We had a lot of miscues in the first half," Barnett said. "We were a little rattled, but our guys responded in the second half."
But the defense really came alive in the second half. Eudora's defense in the second half forced a string of three consecutive Buffalo turnovers, which, along with two rushing touchdowns by Brian Harris, clinched the game for Eudora.
The third quarter was all Eudora's offense, which controlled the ball for all but one costly snap that led to a Buffalo touchdown. The Cards continued to pound the ball down field until they finally ran the Buffaloes into the ground with brutal rushing drives.
"I thought our conditioning was pretty good," Barnett said. "I really thought we could wear them out."
For nearly the entire fourth quarter, in which the ball changed hands eight times, the offense and defensive units took turns pacing along the sideline with their toes creeping closer and closer to the field, eagerly waiting to put the Cards back in the game it was just that intense.
And as the Buffaloes wore down, the Cards fired up and ran away with the game with an offensive dominance and patience that will need to be present at the homecoming game this week.
"I thought our kids kept their composure. We haven't played a lot of games with league champion ramifications, and that's just being honest," Barnett said. "This is a new situation for them and I thought they responded well. This is a huge win for the kids."
With the big game against Baldwin waiting in the shadows, the Cards, who will have the home field advantage again, look to capitalize on that and use the spirit of Laws Field to their advantage.
"We talk a lot about defending our home," Barnett said. "We've got a great home crowd here, it's really helped us out a couple times."