Archive for Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Fly Route

November 30, 2006

The season is finally over for everyone in the state, so I figured I'd visit the Eudora football team's season one final time.

Time -- even a few weeks -- helps add perspective, and I hope the players and fans have come to terms with the disappointing end to the season and realized what a special season 2006 was.

Looking at how the playoffs unfolded Eudora certainly could have done better, but the Cardinals certainly could have done worse, too.

What the team needs to take from this year's 11-1 record is that it was close. The Cardinals knocked on the door and had a real chance to make it to the state championship.

That's a very important thing -- coming close. Nearly everyone has to come close before they break through, and now that Eudora has fielded very good teams in three of the last five seasons, it has been knocking enough that it could soon break through.

I went to high school in what all my life I've thought was a "where's that?" Class 4A contender, Andale. This year my hometown put itself on the map by breaking through and cruising to a state championship.

I went to the title game over the weekend and watched Andale pummel Paola, ensuring that the Indians' first trip to the championship game would result in the school's first championship.

Don't take that to mean that Andale is a new kid on the block, however. The Indians have always had a good football team, and have had very good teams three of the last four seasons.

They always came up short, however.

This year was different. Andale squeezed through its semi-final game against Ulysses, then rolled Paola.

What does it mean to Eudora?

Well, first it means Eudora wasn't going to win the state championship this year. I'm no doubt a little biased here (hey, Andale's a small town -- I have to support it), but honestly, I watched Eudora play six times this season, and Andale was a better team.

It was easy to see a path unfolding for the Cardinals as upset and upset knocked out the regular contenders, but trust me -- the road would have ended at Andale.

That said, Eudora can take a lesson from Andale's success, and maybe even sooner than we all think, it could be the Cardinals rolling in a state championship game.

Eudora's been knocking, and it's due to break through.

It may not be next year, or the year after, but I think the only thing that could keep Eudora out of the state championship game in the next five years would be coach Gregg Webb leaving for another job.

All season long I debated in this column whether this was just a special group, or whether Webb's system was good enough to win anywhere.

Looking back, I think this group was a little of both. It was easy to consider senior quarterback Kent Swanson a system guy. But glancing at his stats makes that a tough position to defend.

"System guys" don't throw 17 touchdowns to just two interceptions.

His graduation ensures that for the second-straight offseason, there will be a big hole to fill at quarterback.

Eudora returns a lot of the players that graced our headlines this year -- 1,600-yard running back Travis Clarke, 13-touchdown receiver Matthew Abel and all-around strong defender Chad Krutz.

But they also lose a lot -- again. They lose priceless offensive linemen and three of their top four tacklers in Austin Hoover, Michael Whitten and Dustin Foulk.

Still, the Cardinals will be good. Very good.

They tasted success with their best-ever record, 11-0, and they saw a chance for a trip to state. If Eudora could have gotten past Girard, I think it could have handled Paola, and advanced to the title game.

Now it's time to apply that lesson. The Cardinals knocked again in 2006. It can't be long before that door opens.

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