Despite replacing starters, team holds on to momentum
The 2004 Eudora Cardinals football team failed in its bid for a fifth-straight district title but managed eight wins and a regional championship.
Coach Gregg Webb's squad entered the season with the daunting task of replacing 11 of his 22 starters. The heralded third-year coach answered the challenge, piecing together an 8-4 season and sustaining the program's momentum.
The campaign commenced with an opening 21-0 shutout victory over Wellsville. But that solid win was followed by a shocking 38-17 loss to Osawatomie.
Eudora responded to the Osawatomie loss with a barrage of blowouts -- 54-0 over Prairie View, 48-12 over Anderson County, and 48-0 over Central Heights.
The Cardinals were stunned yet again in their sixth contest -- a 12-7 loss to De Soto.
"The Osawatomie game was very disappointing," Webb said. "The De Soto game was the worst feeling for me in a while because we just completely laid an egg in that game.
"A football year is like a lifetime. You go through so many ups and downs. And every now and then we would think we would be making progress, and then something would happen and really set us back a little bit."
As it had following the Osawatomie loss, Eudora responded to a loss with a couple laughers -- 49-13 over Santa Fe Trail and 28-7 over Spring Hill.
Things tightened up for the Cardinals, however, on the heels of the Spring Hill game. Eudora lost a tight 14-6 battle with archrival Baldwin. The loss to the Bulldogs ended the Cards' regular season and streak of district championships.
The loss also meant that Eudora would begin its playoff run on the road at Anderson County. There the Cardinals overcame a late 10-point deficit, scoring touchdowns on each of its final two possessions en route to a 34-30 bi-district triumph.
That victory earned Eudora a match at home with Coffeyville. In what may have been the Cards most complete victory of the season, they cruised to a 35-8 win and a regional title.
The Coffeyville creaming set the stage for a contest with undefeated and top-ranked Topeka-Hayden. The juggernaut Wildcats prevailed 42-6, ending the Cardinals season on a disappointing note.
"The highs were coming back on Anderson County down 30-20 with probably seven minutes to go in that game and winning it, and then playing our best football against Coffeyville was nice," Webb said. "It's just too bad we had to run into the Hayden buzz saw.
But 4A's got a couple of buzz saws with Holton and Fort Scott. And just for us to be left on this side of the bracket with those three powerhouse names says something about where our program is."
Entering the season, the Cards had to replace a graduation-ravaged core of skill-position players. But the defensive front seven and a pair of key offensive linemen returned. The 2005 season will be a reversal. The majority of this year's skill position players will be back. But the majority of both lines and key members of a talented linebacking core will have to be replaced.
"We've got some decent skill kids coming back," Webb said. "We're really going to have to replace our linemen, though, and that's a challenge.
"Our seniors were a good class. It's too bad we didn't stay healthy throughout the course of the year. We never did really get in a flow of things because we were subbing or changing offensive linemen every week. (Hayden) was the first time we had our starting six kids up front and every one of them was a senior. And so was Brendan Jackson and Joe Kaup, so we lose an awful lot of good kids."
The loss of Jackson and Kaup are significant. They combined for 1,444 yards and 22 touchdowns.
On the defensive side, the key loss is clearly linebacker Chris Durkin. Eudora's ball hawk posted 43 unassisted tackles this season while assisting on an additional 90.
But not all is lost.
"There are some kids that aren't too bad that are coming up," Webb said. "Our skill kids, Miles Cleveland and Mark Abel, aren't too bad. Kyle Brouhard throws a good ball. And Luke Abel had a great year."
Brouhard, a first-year starter, had a solid season completing 52 passes for 942 yards with 10 touchdowns to offset his five interceptions. Remarkably, 49 of his 59 incompletions on the season were recorded as drops.
There's plenty of work left to be done, but Webb thinks his program has built a solid foundation and is ready to reload.
"I think we're 26-8 in my three years here," he said. "We made it to the playoffs all three years; sub-state once and sectional once. So, I think we're heading in the right direction. We just have to stay committed."