On they go, 11-0
Eudora shuts down Atchison to keep dream season alive another week
It was the most important game of the season thus far, so the Eudora football
team had every right to be nervous. But when the curtains drew Saturday afternoon in Atchison, the Cardinals were on their mark and did not let their nerves get to them.
The Cardinals beat previously undefeated Atchison High School 20-12, securing Eudora a regional championship and advancing it to the next round of the Class 4A state playoffs.
Eudora got on the board first, and stayed on top throughout the game. Matthew Abel first returned the opening kickoff to the 43-yard line, then caught a fourth-down pass to set up a two-yard Travis Clarke touchdown run.
The five-minute drive that netted four first downs set the tone for the game offensively -- Eudora would smash its way where it needed to go -- and the defense followed that drive up with its own statement.
The defense took the stage and quickly shut down the Atchison offense, only giving up five yards in the process.
In all, the defense played exceedingly well, coach Gregg Webb said. Atchison had a fairly mixed rushing and passing game, which Webb said the defense contained for the most part.
"I'm pleased with how well they played," Webb said. "I know they had a good offense, and to only keep them to 12 points is pretty respectable. For the most part, the defense played outstanding."
Eudora then gained possession of the football, which yielded a 38-yard touchdown pass to Clarke from quarterback Kent Swanson.
Clarke had one of his biggest days in the backfield, and not just because of his two first-half touchdowns. He hammered his way for 215 yards on the ground and added 38 more receiving -- all coming on the third-down screen pass he broke wide open for the second touchdown.
"It's always good to be touching the ball a lot when we have such a good offense like we do," Clarke said.
Many of those yards are a direct credit to Clarke, too, Webb said.
Offensive line has been a Cardinal strength all season, but the unit was inconsistent against Atchison.
"Travis really didn't run all that hard," Webb said. "He was too busy waiting for the hole, and he was a little hesitant because he was unsure where the next block would be coming from."
After an explosive and dramatic performance by Eudora in the first quarter, the second quarter seemed to be a different story entirely. Up 12-0, the Cards got locked in a detente with Atchison; they played the ball for three downs, punted it, defended for three downs, received the punt and then repeated ad infinitum.
However, Webb said the continuous flow of the clock worked for Eudora. The team had the lead throughout the quarter and did not give up any points, thanks to a tough Cardinal defense.
"We controlled the clock very well and made (Atchison) exhausted when they came to play the defense," Webb said.
One thing Webb said really helped Eudora during the second quarter was Loni Ogden's consistently direct punts. On one occasion, Eudora's offense was several yards from its end zone and Ogden punted the ball to the middle of the field, keeping Atchison from great field position.
"Loni's done a great job all year for us," Webb said. "He can, for the most part, put the ball where we need it to go. We have really seen the value of getting the ball off our end of the field, getting us out of bad situations."
Finally, in the third quarter, Clarke racked up six more points, breaking up the scoreless turnovers.
Yet Atchison proved it was not out of the fight just yet. The team posted six more points after an impressive 90-yard B.J. Young pass to Andre Harris.
Not wanting to risk anything, Swanson took a knee with 30 seconds remaining in the game, adding another win to the Cardinals' record.
Clarke said he was very proud of the team's efforts in the game and was eager to move on to the third round of the state tournament.
"I'm excited about moving on," Clarke said. "This was my first year really starting, so it feels good to be a part of the team and moving on this far in the playoffs."
The curtain closed on an ecstatic Eudora football team, as the members proudly waved the Class 4A Regional Champions plaque high above their heads Saturday. However, Webb said although the Atchison win was big, the team will soon have bigger foes to worry about, like Girard.
"We'll have to play our best game to win that game," Webb said. "But there are some awful good teams left. We are just proud to be among that group of teams still left."