Archive for Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Fly Route

August 24, 2006

It's the kind of saying dozens of college football programs print on cheesy T-shirts -- "We don't rebuild. We reload."

For every 10 groups of fans that claim such a program, there's probably one that honestly never rebuilds and can always slide new talent -- maybe even better talent -- season after season.

Eudora's about to find whether or not its program deserves to print up some shirts of its own.

At first glance it would appear the loss of last year's senior class could only be defined as staggering. The problem's not so much that a lot of great players graduated, it's that those great players played a lot and for a long time.

They virtually locked down the offensive skill positions and left very few opportunities for underclassmen to log varsity minutes in those positions.

But looking back, it's clear that group struggled too, and while it managed to roll through it's first eight games undefeated, it did not do so unblemished.

Eudora needed two fourth quarter comebacks in its first four games to survive and won the season opener in unimpressive fashion, knocking Wellsville off 12-6.

The team clearly learned its lessons, though. The Cardinals put up 181 points to their opponents' 56 during a four-game stretch late in the season.

The 2006 squad must find that same survival instinct in an early-season schedule that looks much the same. What would really help is blowing one wide open.

Last year's team scraped by Anderson County 26-6, then a week later used timely turnovers and big plays to explode against Central Heights, 61-6. Without that giant game, I don't think Eudora makes it eight games without a loss.

Such a win early in the '06 schedule would give first-year varsity quarterback Kent Swanson and the rest of Eudora's inexperienced offensive pointmakers a powerful dose of confidence, not to mention plenty of opportunity to refine and sharpen their in-game skills.

As always, it will all cumulate with district play, and this year looks more difficult than last year in that regard.

Despite losing the final game of the regular season at Baldwin a year ago, Eudora was convincing enough in its first two district games to earn a spot in the playoffs. The Cardinals could have advanced too had Louisburg not pulled a 29-point fourth quarter from its magical sleeve.

The game against Baldwin will again be critical, obviously. It anchors the schedule as the last game of the season and already -- eight days before the first game and two months before the Baldwin game -- it appears to be on the minds of Eudora's players.

But the other games in district play may prove much more challenging than last season's games.

Last year Eudora rolled over Spring Hill and Santa Fe Trail in district play. In 2006, the Cardinals will swap Santa Fe Trail for De Soto -- another team Eudora steamrolled around the highwater mark.

But the Wildcats could prove more challenging this season.

De Soto knocked Eudora off two years ago, and the Cats will host the game. De Soto finished 2005 well behind Eudora in the Frontier League standings with a 5-4 record, but return most of their offensive weapons and a handful of their best defenders.

Eudora may well be able to make it a winning streak over De Soto, but the game will undoubtedly be closer than last season's shellacking.

I know the same level of experience is not there for Eudora at the varsity level.

I think the same level of talent could be though, and with a few breaks, the Cardinals could be printing their own "reload" T-shirts come the state playoffs.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.