Eudora’s ticket to ride
The Eudora High School football team punched its ticket to state playoffs with a 20-6 victory over Huron League champions Bishop Ward High School, but a big game Friday determine in the Cardinals travel first class.
"I really felt that game was in control," Eudora head coach Gregg Webb said. "It was a big win, but it's going to get tougher."
The Cardinals (7-1) (2-0 district play) scored on their second drive. Senior fullback Tyler Jackson, 15 rushes for 135 yards and one touchdown, dragged several Cyclones defenders along with him on a long run.
Then, senior halfback Andrew Pyle (39 rushes for 207 yard) broke a pair of tackles on a 30-yard rush. Pyle scored the first of his two touchdowns on a one-yard run a few moments later.
The Eudora defense, led by sophomore Chris Durkin, junior Joey Donahue, and seniors Kaleb Niedens and Joe Born shut down the Cyclones, 5-3 overall but 0-2 in district, usually-efficient passing game. Ward senior quarterback John Breitenstein was eight for 25 with 112 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
"Our defense is getting better, and it's helping our offense," Webb said. "Our secondary is getting better at understanding coverage and alignments."
Eudora junior quarterback Tyler Cleveland, 14 rushes for 93 yards, attempted his first pass with one minute remaining in the first quarter. It was a completion to junior receiver Josh Brouhard that set up a six-yard Pyle touchdown, his 25th of the season.
Jackson scored on a 21-yard touchdown, putting Eudora ahead 20-0 in the second quarter.
Niedens made 2-3 extra points as the Cards' kicker.
Eudora appeared to be on its way to adding another touchdown before halftime. Pyle threw an interception on a halfback pass play that set up Ward's best drive of the half. The Cards held off a furious Cyclones rally at the goal line, heading into the locker room with a 20-0 lead.
Pyle became the first Cardinal this season to throw an interception and make an interception in the same game. Senior Luke Powers also intercepted a pass for Eudora in the second half.
For most of the third quarter, the Cardinals mastered the art of clock management. While hanging on to the ball and amassing 441 yards of rushing offense, the Cards were flagged left and right.
"Our discipline isn't very good," Webb said. "Some of the calls were questionable, but some were legit."
In the second half, Eudora was flagged 12 times for a total of 95 yards.
The Cyclones went on a drive early in the fourth quarter with help from penalties on Eudora. Breitenstein threw a 14-yard touchdown pass that was nearly intercepted by Donahue but caught by Ward junior receiver Brad Wiss. The Cardinals blocked Wiss' extra point attempt.
Ward also threatened to put points on the board with only two minutes left in the game. The Cyclones, who were given 30 yards on that drive, came up short and turned the ball over on downs.
The Cards host undefeated Mill Valley (8-0) (2-0), the champions of the Kaw Valley League large-school division Thursday. The third-year school is coming off a 22-6 victory over archrival De Soto (3-5) (0-2).
"They're 8-0, and that ought to tell you something," Webb said. "They have three quality backs that run real hard."
The Mill Valley game has major playoff implications for both squads. Both teams have clinched playoff berths, but the showdown on Halloween will decide which team will host a first-round playoff game.
"It's huge," Webb said. "I know the game is played between the lines but things go smoother when you're at home."
If the Cardinals win, they would most likely play rival Baldwin (5-3), Kaw Valley League co-champion or Santa Fe Trail (7-1), or possibly even Perry-Lecompton Tuesday. Several members of the team would like to avenge a 33-32 loss to Baldwin Oct. 11 in Eudora. The Bulldogs must defeat Perry-Lecompton Thursday to secure a playoff spot.
"I don't know if the revenge thing is that big with me, but it might be with the kids and in the community," Webb said. "We're just trying to win our next game."
If Eudora loses to the undefeated Jaguars, the team would probably play at perennially class 4A power Topeka Hayden or at Santa Fe Trail.