Friday night lights shine again
Cardinals take the field Sept. 3 at Wellsville versus the Eagles
The Eudora Cardinals football program ended 2003 with a solid 7-3 record and its fourth consecutive district championship. The final loss withstanding the season was, by most accounts, a success.
To repeat a district championship and advance deeper into the playoffs this season, the Cards must first address a turnover in 11 of 22 starting positions.
On the offensive side Eudora returns just four starters -- two of whom will be playing different positions. Eudora must contend with the loss of starting quarterback Tyler Cleveland and the entirety of his talented receiving corps.
It appears Kyle Brouhard has locked down the role of replacing Cleveland.
"(Brouhard) has stepped right in for us at quarterback," Webb said. "I mean, we haven't missed a beat. That was a big question mark for us last year, but he really took over the reins. The kid can just throw it. Now whether or not he's tall enough to be able to see anything's another question."
Brouhard doesn't run as well as Cleveland but probably has a better arm. The question then focuses on the ability of the Cardinal running backs to pick up for the drop-off in the running game and the new receiving corps to provide Brouhard with targets capable of handling what could be an increased focus on the passing game.
"The big question mark for us is our skill positions," Webb said. "But I think Joe Kaup (at wide receiver) looks fantastic. He sure fits the profile: He runs well and he catches the ball. We should be able to man him up out there and take advantage of that position."
Miles Cleveland will provide a multi-dimensional weapon for the Cards.
"I think we all know how tough Miles Cleveland is," Webb said. "At seven-on-seven he was incredible. He caught every ball. He's kind of our slash kid that we can do a lot of different things with."
In the backfield the Cards will rely primarily on small but quick halfback Luke Abel and fullback Brendan Jackson. Last year's starting tailback Mark Lister was one of the many casualties of graduation.
"Luke Abel at tailback is another question mark; just how durable he is," Webb said. "But he shouldn't have to be asked to carry the load 30 times, because we've got a couple other decent backs.
"Brendan Jackson, of course, is going to have to touch it 15 to 20 times -- he's just that good."
Abel, Brouhard and Jackson will rely heavily on the development of the new offensive line. In Webb's smashmouth style of play, the O-line is the most important element of the offensive attack.
Last season the line was equally a source of productivity and frustration.
"Last year our offensive line was just not a cohesive group," Webb said. "They wouldn't talk to each other, they didn't like each other, they fought on the field. And as an offensive group you just can't have that. It is such an intricate thing up there that you've got to be able to talk to each other and talk to each other in a manner to help each other. We couldn't do that last year."
The early chemistry of this season's veteran group has Webb encouraged.
"It is a senior-dominated group so they should be mature," he said. "And they get along great. It ought to be a good unit to work with, because these are my guys.
"They can make you winners or they can kill you."
The defensive side defined the success of the 2003 campaign and should be capable of carrying the offense as it searches for its identity.
"Defensively we should be very good," Webb said. "Our front seven are all back from last year. And we had one of the best defenses in the league last year.
"All seven are seniors. That's a good thing for this year, but you would like to mix them up there so you don't lose everybody in one year."
That was the case with the team's secondary last year.
"We lost four all-league or better kids from our secondary," Webb said. "They were really good, and we will miss those kids. That's the big question mark on our defense. But you just don't expect teams to throw against you. Hopefully by the time we see some team that is capable of throwing it, we'll be better back there.
"The kids we have back there ought to be able to handle it OK."
Webb hopes his question marks will develop into exclamation points beginning Sept. 3 with the season-opener on the road at Wellsville.