Cardinal football team ready for 2006 campaign
A hard lesson the Eudora High School football team learned last year was nothing is guaranteed.
After falling to both Louisburg and Baldwin to end the season, the team was disallowed a state tournament run, even after an 8-0 start to the season.
Coach Gregg Webb said it was a hard lesson indeed, but was one that needed to be learned. Now, after a summer of early morning weightlifting, seven-on-seven drills and the team's annual late-summer football camp, the Cardinals are ready to brush the dirt off their jerseys and move forward to state, one game at a time.
"Our expectations are always to make it to the state championship, but we are not going to be marking games on the schedule ? every game is equally important," Webb said.
While many of the horses that pulled the Cardinals to their perfect start have graduated, Eudora does have one large -- large in every sense of the word -- advantage this year that they did not have last year -- strength and size in the offensive line.
Webb said because there were so many new faces in skill positions like starting quarterback Kent Swanson, he would depend on the strength of the linemen until the novices got comfortable with their jobs.
Webb said although the players in skill positions were new, they were not to be underestimated. Some experienced players return and Webb said new faces such as Bryan Dudley at receiver, William Gadberry at full back and Ryan Fisher at running back could all help out.
The Cardinals also return some players who had experience moving the ball a year ago. Senior Loni Ogden played in seven games and was fourth on the team in rushing with 159 yards. Junior receiver Matthew Abel will also return. He was third on the team in receptions with 15, and had a touchdown.
"We're pretty solid and are in good shape," Abel said. "We are almost up to where we need to be for the first game. Expectations are high ? we are going to meet them."
Just because new players are filling spots does not necessarily mean new strategies will be implemented, Webb said. Each of the coaches brings years of experience to the table, and with that experience comes a wide breadth of workable strategies. He said the coaches are picking and choosing which proven strategies work best for where the team is at now rather than going to the drawing board and concocting new ones.
Webb said he's definitely looking forward to the first game of the season at 7 p.m. Sept. 1 at home against Osawatomie. He said the first game really helped set the tone for every other game in the season.
"Obviously game one is huge," Webb said. "We just want our kids to win and be ready for every snap."
But everything more-or-less comes down to the final three games of the season, when the Cardinals enter the state tournament-deciding district play. Webb said those games were of extreme importance to the program.
Eudora's district is basically the same this season, though De Soto has been added and Santa Fe Trail has been dropped.
The Cardinals will again face Spring Hill, who Eudora thumped 46-20 last season. Eudora beat De Soto 39-24 last year.
"Spring Hill is kind of a concern for us," Webb said. "As for De Soto, we've been fortunate enough to be successful against them."
And then saunters in Baldwin for the last game of the season. Not only is this game against a tried-and-true football rival that beat Eudora 35-20 last season, but also could decide if Eudora will be making a 2006 state tournament appearance.
Quarterback Kent Swanson said the showdown against Baldwin could very well be the most important game of the season.
"They are always good," Swanson said. "It is always the most fun and most intense game of the season. When Baldwin comes around, we'll be ready."
It may be hard to match 2005's start, where the Cardinals reeled off eight games in a row for the first time in program history, but Webb said he was confident the team learned its lesson for the disappointing finish, and maybe in 2006 it can all translate into a run at the end of the season.
"We have high expectations for all of our kids," Webb said. "We have the potential to be an awful good football team."