Kickoff return adds interest to opener
LA CYGNE LA CYGNE- A special team mistake cost the Eudora High School football team a chance to put away Prairie View halfway through the second quarter, said Eudora coach Gregg Webb.
"I really thought we were ready to put them away, but they ran that kickoff back," said Webb, who made his Eudora coaching debut Friday night. "That was our kick team's fault we did not tackle well. If we make that tackle, the game is over."
Senior Andrew Pyle scored a pair of first-quarter touchdowns on runs of six and three yards before junior quarterback Tyler Cleveland, four rushes for 38 yards, added another score. The Cards appeared to be in complete control until Prairie View junior Jacob Wade eluded several packs of Eudora defenders, getting the Buffaloes on the board 21-6.
The Cardinals showcased their new three-running back offense early and often before the kicking game error occurred.
Pyle, who had a career-high five touchdowns in the game, carried the ball 28 times for 179 of Eudora's 307 yards. He was joined by Tyler Jackson, six carries for 31 yards, and Luke Powers, seven carries for 57 yards.
"We were so nervous," Webb said. "I just couldn't believe they were so nervous. Some kids handle pressure differently and instead of fearing it, they need to embrace it."
After the kickoff return, the Cards couldn't regain their offensive rhythm. They were stuffed on a fourth and one from their own 41-yard line after Webb decided not to punt the ball.
On the Buffs' following possession, junior quarterback Scott Stoughton, 4 for 45 yards, hit his favorite target, sophomore receiver Brody Eldridge. Stoughton scored on a quarterback keeper a few moments later to bring the score within nine, 21-12.
At that point, the Prairie View faithful became louder, and the Cardinals were feeling a true road-game atmosphere from a squad that finished 1-8 a season ago.
The Cards only threw the ball four times as Cleveland, 3-for-4 for 54 yards, connected with Powers for all three receptions. Ironically, a long passing play got the Cards out of their funk and set up the first of three Andrew Pyle second half touchdowns.
"He (Cleveland) threw the ball alright," Webb said. "We had two miracle catches. Luke is a good receiver.
"We just will take what they (opponents) are going to give us. If they load it up on the line of scrimmage, we'll look to throw it."
Cleveland said he doesn't mind that passing usually isn't a first, or even second option, in the Cardinals offense.
"I'd rather run it or hand it off to Pyle and let him do his thing," Cleveland said. "I knew if it came down to it, we'd get a pass off if we needed to."
After the Cardinals gained the 27-12 lead, the Buffaloes developed a case of chronic fumbleitis. At one point in the fourth quarter, they fumbled the ball three times in four plays. The Buffs finished with five turnovers, all fumbles, to the Cardinals' one turnover.
Near the end of the fourth quarter, the Buffs seemed to be eagerly awaiting the Fifth Quarter, a post-game social event scheduled for a La Cygne church.
With 6:24 remaining in the contest, Webb put his second string offense in the game. Sophomore Josh Barr and junior Mark Lister got the chance to carry the ball late in the game for Eudora.
"I wish we would have played better, but the most important thing is that we learn what we did wrong and correct it," Webb said. "For everybody's first game in this offense, we did alright."
Pyle said it was only a matter of time before the Cardinals broke out of their offensive slump.
"We were rolling out there for a while and got a little flat," Pyle said. "We finally got it together and shoved it back down their throats."
The Cardinals will face Anderson County (0-1) at 7 p.m. Friday at Eudora. Anderson County, which lost to Baldwin 42-0 in its opener, is 1-27 under third-year coach Don Hilliard. Still, the Cardinals won't take the Garnett-based school lightly when it visits Laws Field Friday.
"Any team we play, we think we're going to win," Pyle said. "We are going to go in with the mentality that we have to play our butts off."
The opening game put Eudora in a tie for first place of the Frontier League small school division with Osawatomie, a 27-20 winner over Wellsville. The Cards play at Osawatomie Sept. 20.
Eudora assistant coaches Jim Rose, a Webb assistant from Claflin, and Ty Pattison, a former Eudora Middle School assistant, replaced Phil Katzenmeier, this year's middle school head coach, and Greg Woolf, who is now coaching at Quinter.
Eudora picked up 16 first downs, and carried the ball 48 times for 307 yards. The Cardinals defense held Prairie View to 193 yards.
Sophomore Chris Durkin led the team in tackles with eight while his uncle Dave Durkin watched his first Cards game as Eudora High School Activities Director.
Junior lineman Chance Rowland doubled as the Cards kicker and scored the only extra point of the game.