The final score might not tell the whole tale, or in the case of Eudora's opening game of the Class 4A state playoffs, very much at all.
Eudora's offense sputtered Tuesday for much of the game, but a stout defensive performance and just enough on offense kept the Cardinals' postseason dreams alive. Eudora beat Kansas City Piper 47-13 at Laws Field to advance to a Saturday showdown on the road against undefeated Atchison.
The Cardinals were held scoreless in the first quarter and were constantly burdened by dropped passes, fumbles and mistakes. What the team could muster eventually proved more than enough, however.
"Thank God our defense played, because our offense was non-existent in the first half," coach Gregg Webb said about the offense's poor performance. "We had some issues with their defense. I don't know if we were nervous, but our offensive line thrust didn't maul them up front like they should and could."
The offense eventually found its form and was able to turn the game into a rout, but frozen fingers were a factor all night, and that was obvious from the first snap. Eudora fumbled the first play of the game, and set the Pirates up just 31 yards from what would have been a shocking early lead.
Enter the second theme that ran through the game -- Eudora's hard-hitting, beat-'em-up defense.
The defense forced a Piper fumble, resulting in a 16-yard loss for the Pirates. E.J. James made the recovery, planting the ball on the Piper 47 for their offense.
Eudora's offense had genuine trouble hanging on to the football throughout the first three quarters, but the defense refused to allow that to be a factor in the game.
In all, the defense kept the Pirates to a loss of 16 yards passing and rushing in the first half alone.
Matthew Abel fumbled a punt, and Piper had several other chances to jump out on the Cardinals, but the defense held, and eventually the typically high-powered Eudora offense found some momentum.
The offensive line made Travis Clarke's first touchdown look easy. Absolutely no one stood in his way and he could have cartwheeled the 10 yards it took to put Eudora on top. Following a two-point conversion, the Cardinals led 8-0 with nine minutes, 12 seconds remaining in the second half.
The defense kept its play up and Dustin Foulk intercepted a pass and returned it to the Piper 11-yard line, setting up Eudora's second score. Clarke rumbled in again, this time from seven yards, to put Eudora up 14-0 heading into the half.
Foulk said his interception was nothing special; he was just doing his job.
"I got to the interception, and we just brought it back down and did what we needed to do," Foulk said.
Just two minutes in the third quarter, Michael Whitten helped set the offense up again. He plowed through the Pirate offensive line, but he didn't exactly force a player to fumble. No, he beat the quarterback to the running back and bulldozed both as they tried to exchange the ball.
The ball popped free, Eudora recovered and moments later Clarke was coasting in for his third touchdown.
"Clarke had a solid night," Webb said. "He's tough. He's not very big, but he wants to do well. It's good to be a tailback in Coach Webb's offense because he's going to touch the ball a lot of times."
Despite the growing score, the offense continued to struggle and move the ball consistently, and the mistakes finally caught up to the team. Piper's Kenny Kuklenski scooped up a fumble in the Eudora backfield and ran untouched 80 yards for a touchdown.
Finally the offense opened the gates, however, and the gaff wouldn't prove very costly.
Loni Ogden ran two yards for the fourth Cardinal touchdown of the game, a score set up by an Abel punt return.
Abel himself followed that up with his first score of the game, a 30-yard pass reception from quarterback Kent Swanson.
After the Cardinal defense recovered another Pirate fumble, Hoover ran it in for a four-yard run just 40 seconds after Abel's touchdown.
After victory was assured, the defense made its first real mistake of the game with three minutes remaining. Piper made a 30-yard drive, resulting in its second and final touchdown of the game.
Finally, Hoover wrapped the game up nicely with the final touchdown and Joel Lauer put the bow on it with a successful field goal.
Webb said because of how close to each other the games were, the first two rounds of the playoffs can be difficult on the players, especially for those who sustain injuries and do not have enough time to heal.
"It's tough because we're playing three games in nine days," Webb said. "I think we came out of the game healthy, and that's the issue -- it's a war of attrition. Little nicks become huge nicks when you only have three days to deal with it. But I think we'll do well."