The wild card
About the first week of August every year, there's something about the smell of freshly cut grass and a warm breeze that makes me think of football season. From watching the NFL to college and high school, football is a sport that communities openly support, especially in Eudora.
I am told that each Friday of the season the town is abuzz about the game that will be played that evening. And it's under those stadium lights that the kids get to reap their rewards of practicing about three hours a day, showing off their talent and representing the community with pride.
For the last two weeks I have been going out and watching Eudora practice. The first day of practice didn't look like an oil painting. Players jumped off sides and the camaraderie between the quarterbacks and wide receivers wasn't there. Passes were wobbly and off the mark and the receivers weren't always ready for the ball when it was heading their way. Lineman missed blocks and kickers missed kicks.
But the team has shown steady improvement since then. At practice last week Friday the timing between the quarterback and wide receivers was much improved. Drew Noble completed several passes to Christian Richardson in tight spaces. And Richardson ran well when he was playing quarterback and withstood a big hit from Zack Bryant who was playing safety and is still in contention for the Cardinals' starting quarterback job.
A few fans even stopped in to watch the team practice, which is something that happens quite regularly at Eudora. This year coach Gregg Webb has about 65 kids out for football and each kid has gone through the dreadful two-a-day practices to be part of a team.
The 2008 Eudora Cardinals will look quite different from last year's team that finished 8-2. Just seven starters return and many positions remain up for grabs. Whoever starts at quarterback will likely not play every snap this season, nor will he likely play every snap during the team's season opener Sept. 5 at Spring Hill. But Webb said that the team would be supportive of whoever it is, and he was open to the possibility of it being a platoon situation much like last year.
The quarterbacks have all shown off their ability in practice and this summer, but the line is where football games are won and lost. This year's team has to replace three starters and senior guard Cody Carlson and junior Colton Lynch should be stalwart on the offensive line.
Carlson has looked guard at offensive guard, both blocking at the line of scrimmage and pulling to the right on sweeps, and Lynch has routinely driven lineman off the ball. On the defensive line Carlson will get reps and Logan Alvarez should continue to reek havoc in the opposing backfield.
Being around the Eudora coaches, players and managers the last two weeks has been quite refreshing, seeing them smile when Webb says something funny or seeing them frown when they don't understand what they did wrong
on a play.
But they're kids. They are kids whose personalities and performances on the field are often talked about each Friday night or Saturday morning by a community that deeply cares about the team that represents them as a community.