Archive for Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Fly Route

November 16, 2006

This is where I'm supposed to say the Eudora football team overlooked Girard. I'm supposed to say the Cardinals stumbled against a team that wanted it more, that Girard is playing inspired football after an offseason tragedy. I'm supposed to say the Cards should be proud of advancing as far as they did because no one expected it at the beginning of the season, that the drive through the playoffs was magical and that the school and the town should be overflowing with pride, even now, nearly a week after Eudora's season ended.

And all that's true -- consider it said -- but don't let Friday's season-ending 21-14 sectional loss go down beneath a hail of cliche explanations and excuses, and cheery thoughts about what it all means in the grand scheme of life.

Girard flat beat Eudora. The Trojans sought out what the Cardinals do best, stopped it, and then did it all better.

It's no reason to be ashamed. All that stuff about a great season, an unexpected run, running into an emotional buzzsaw -- that's all true. But to simply explain away the season and the final loss in those terms doesn't do Girard's phenomenal performance justice, nor does it do Eudora's awe-inspiring season justice.

First, Girard was awesome. The Trojans came to play, and they outplayed the Cardinals. Even as Eudora coach Gregg Webb has grumbled about his offensive line and running game late into the season, the Cardinal blockers have had little trouble paving the way for Travis Clarke.

He rumbled for more than 200 yards on the ground and added nearly 40 more through the air just a week ago, when Eudora advanced to the state quarterfinals with a win against Atchison.

They couldn't find the same success Friday, however. Girard was consistent first in its ability to slow Clarke at the line and hit him hard after a short gain, then later in its ability to slide into the Eudora backfield and catch running backs before they could even make it through the line.

No one's done that. Eudora did that all season -- against Class 5A's Gardner Edgerton and against a powerful defense in De Soto. The Cardinals did it against rival Baldwin. They did it in a sloppy first-round playoff game and they did it on the road against a tough Atchison squad.

Girard's the first team to stop it.

Eudora's bailout all season has been the passing game. While it's often been the ugly younger brother to the powerful run game, quarterback Kent Swanson has connected for some spectacular highlight reel passes.

The Trojans had that all sniffed out, too. The most obvious sign came when Eudora's go-to play -- a quick out to the speedy Matthew Abel -- continually came up empty. He's been able to catch the pass and zip past the cornerback for a big gain at will this season, but not Friday.

Abel dropped one pass, then got hammered every other time the team tried to run it.

Maybe the demise of that play summed it up better than anything else -- Girard took away Eudora's bread and butter and in doing so flat-out earned a spot in the Class 4A semi-finals.

There's a lot for the Cardinals to be proud of. It truly was a great season -- arguably Eudora's best ever. It was fun, and the whole community got wrapped up in the magic of a playoff run.

But let's not diminish what happened in Girard by breaking it down into cliches. The Trojans came to play, and for the first time, all season, someone simply beat Eudora.

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