Special teams, defense key Eudora’s season-opening win
The Eudora Cardinals shot out of the gates of the 2005 football season the way every team would like to begin its first game -- with a bang.
Senior Mark Abel delivered a shot of adrenaline to the crowd at Laws Field when he returned Wellsville's opening kickoff 80 yards for the first touchdown of the new season in the Cardinals' 12-6 victory over Wellsville Friday.
"In the huddle before the kick coach (Gregg Webb) said, 'Let's just run this back,'" Abel said. "I got some good blocks and saw the open field and just started running for daylight."
The touchdown put the Cardinals up 6-0 before the visiting Eagles knew what happened.
However, as the first quarter went along, the energy delivered by Abel's touchdown run began to dissipate and the Cardinal offense struggled to capitalize on the momentum.
Senior quarterback Kyle Brouhard began the game with a hot hand as he completed his first four passes on his way to 74 yards through the air, including a pair of lengthy strikes to sophomore receiver Matthew Abel.
But the drives seemed to stall at every turn for the Cardinals offensive unit as turnovers and penalties helped derail many of Eudora's opportunities. One of the Cardinals best first-half chances ended in such a way when a 49-yard drive ended with a goal-line interception.
"I felt that we moved the ball well on offense," Webb said. "But we made the wrong decisions and turnovers really didn't help."
As the offense struggled throughout the first half, the defense (one of the Cardinal's question marks going into the season) stepped up to harass Eagle quarterback Ryan Schendel into a lackluster 2-for-9 first-half performance.
"I thought the defense really stepped up," Webb said. "It was one of our question marks going into the season and they were solid."
The defense held Wellsville to 64 yards of first-half offense.
As the first half wound down, the struggling Cardinal offense caught a break when Mark Abel worked his magic once again by returning a punt 63 yards to the Wellsville two-yard line. Two plays later, senior running back Luke Abel busted into the end zone from a yard out to give the Cardinals a 12-0 lead after the two-point conversion failed.
Luke Abel, along with senior fullback James Mills compiled 70 of Eudora's 148 first-half yards on the ground.
The third quarter saw much of the same as the Cardinal offense and defense seemed to be moving in opposite directions. Several Eudora drives stalled while the defensive unit continued to shut down Schendel and Eagle running backs Thatcher Starling and Kyle Rush.
Eudora's defense dodged a bullet as the third quarter wound down when Schendel hit Travis Messer for what appeared to be a 50-yard touchdown reception. But the Eagle offensive line sabotaged the score with a holding penalty that brought the ball back.
However the Eagles came into the final quarter still in the game, and as time clicked off the clock, Wellsville began to take advantage of the stagnate Cardinal offense.
Schendel began what would be the Eagles' best drive of the night by going to the air to running back Rush and an array of receivers.
The Cardinal secondary suffered a few big gains on the drive including a catch by junior Scott Samsel that set Wellsville up at the Eudora one-yard line. The shutout then went up in smoke as Schendel plunged in from a yard out to get the Eagles on the board.
"Our secondary played well all night," Webb said. "But we gave up some big plays through the air, which is more than I like."
The Eagle conversion failed, keeping the margin at six for the Cardinals.
However on the next drive the tension was ratcheted up as a Cardinal turnover put the ame up for grabs.
The Eagles had time on their side as they drove for the potential tying score. Schendel returned to the air for some more big gains and the Eagles were perched at the Cardinal 30-yard line.
Senior receiver Austin Calhoon latched on to a Schendel pass at the 7-yard line to halt the Eagle drive and preserve the Eudora victory.
The Cardinals (1-0) host Osawatomie (0-1) on Friday at Laws Field. Osawatomie suffered a 21-8 loss last week to De Soto.
The Cardinals will look to avenge a 38-17 loss to the Trojans a year ago.
Eudora 12, Wellsville 6
Wellsville 0 0 0 6 -- 6
Eudora 6 6 0 0 -- 12
Eud- Mark Abel 80 kickoff return (kick failed), 12:00
Eud- Luke Abel 1 run (conversion failed), 4:56
Wells- Schendel 1 run (kick failed), 5:38