Strong season can’t shake Cards’ lingering regrets
B-plus. That's the grade Coach Gregg Webb gave the Eudora varsity football season.
"If you take that half out of the (Eudora game at Baldwin) or the last play of the game -- the failed two-point conversion -- we'd still be playing," he said. "We'd be 12-0 right now and everything would be fine."
The Cardinals finished their season 8-2 and earned a playoff birth before Basehor-Linwood knocked them out of the postseason, 13-8.
As time goes on, perhaps Webb and his players will be more likely to look back on the 2007 season and acknowledge the accomplishments.
Webb said the team started off slow, which he attributes partly to the size of Eudora High School's enrollment.
"Usually we're around 10 or 12 seniors. They graduate then you have to fill in those spots with some young kids. Usually it's sophomores because the juniors have their positions, so you flip-flop," Webb said.
It's a big change for kids used to playing on the junior varsity squad. Naturally the speed of the game and physicality of varsity ball is at a higher level.
Webb said having lost eight starters on offense and seven on defense from last year's team meant kids had to make that adjustment. The slow start came in part because players were settling in and developing chemistry as an offensive or defensive unit.
The results of the first four games don't reflect this slow start, though, as the Cardinals were able to handle Osawatomie (55-14), Central Heights (30-13), Wellsville (41-15), and Prairie View (34-20) without a problem.
The rushing attack, led by senior Travis Clarke and junior Ryan Fisher led the way. They both eclipsed 100 yards to start the year versus Osawatomie, Clarke gaining 138 yards to Fisher's 104 yards. They each scored twice.
Against Central Heights it was mainly Clarke, as he gained 200 yards and scored four touchdowns.
Fisher led the way against Wellsville, running for 119 yards on 13 carries.
In the Prairie View game, they both were effective as Fisher and Clarke ran for 140 yards and 99 yards, respectively.
And at 4-0, Webb said, the team hit its stride, starting to realize the potential as a team as they celebrated homecoming against Gardner-Edgerton. Senior Matthew Abel ran for 147 yards on eight carries -- just better than 18 yards per carry -- and scored two touchdowns. Clarke added 112 yards on 12 carries and two touchdowns of his own. Linebackers Boomer Mays and Chad Krutz combined for 23 tackles. Everything was clicking and Eudora beat Gardner 48-21.
"We started playing really well -- like I thought we would," Webb said.
Ensuing wins against Anderson County (48-7), Spring Hill (49-14), and De Soto (55-14) would move the Cardinals' record to 8-0. Again it was Clarke leading the way with a combined 408 yards and seven touchdowns. Also, against Spring Hill senior Brynnen Webb threw for 91 yards and two touchdowns.
At stake when Eudora met Baldwin Oct. 25 for the regular season finale was seeding. The winner would get home-field advantage for the first round of the Class 4A playoffs and face a weaker opponent.
Eudora was undefeated and Baldwin's record stood at 6-2. The Bulldogs had fallen to Gardner and Louisburg in the first half of the season but had won three consecutive games coming in. It wasn't Eudora's night, however, as it would drop a heartbreaker 20-19. The Cardinals had just scored to draw within one with four seconds left. They opted to go for two and the win but the two-point conversion failed.
For the game, Clarke had 88 yards and two touchdowns.
"Once we got out of that game it was so hard to get them back focused in again and to put that game away and say 'Hey, we still got football left,'" Webb said. "You can say that all you want but, easier said than done."
The Baldwin hangover could partly be to blame, but the Cardinals' season was not over as they fell to a lower seed but drew a 4-5 team in Basehor.
Playing without Fisher, who was out because of an ankle injury, Eudora's offense was stagnant and penalized often. But it did outgain Basehor 186 yards to 172 yards in total offense.
"It was a 4-5 team that we saw on film that wasn't very good (on film). We walked into that game thinking we'd be able to go in and take care of business," Webb said. "Things didn't go very well that night. We dropped so many balls and we didn't block anybody."
For the season Clarke amassed 1,158 yards and 19 touchdowns to lead the team. Fisher added 898 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Abel led receivers with 19 receptions, 204 yards and four touchdowns.
On the defensive side of the ball, Boomer Mays led the team in tackles with 80. Abel and senior Chase Rust each had three interceptions.
"They're a great bunch of kids," Webb said of his senior class. "It's tough. The path to the state championship was right in front of us and we let it go.
"That makes me feel bad. When I see Baldwin still playing, I think that should be us. So I feel bad for this class."
Webb said at some point he'll be able to think of the 8-2 season as being a great year, but he said he's just not there yet
As for next year, there are some huge question marks.
"Quarterback's probably the biggest one right now. (Sophomore) Drew Noble, he's a possibility. If he makes the strides he made this year he has a chance to play," Webb said.
With a tougher schedule in place for next year, and considering the seniors the team is losing, Coach Webb and Eudora High need more than one kid to make strides in the off-season and emerge as leaders of the team.