The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

November 4, 2012

Webb City, Hillcrest set for playoff rematch

By Anvil Welch
Globe Sports Writer

— Webb City, en route to winning the 2011 MSHSAA Class 4 football championship, throttled Springfield Hillcrest 49-0 at its Shumate Stadium in the quarterfinal round.

That was 2011.

Hillcrest visits Webb City tonight for a rematch with kickoff scheduled for 7 at Cardinal Stadium.

This encounter isn’t a quarterfinal but will decide the District 4 title. The winner advances to face either Sullivan or St. Clair in a 1:30 p.m. quarterfinal on Saturday.

Top-ranked, two-time defending state champion Webb City (11-0), champion of the Central Ozark Conference Large Division, brings a 41-game winning streak into the fray. Fourth-ranked Hillcrest (10-1) shared the Ozark Conference crown this season with Lebanon.

Many of the important players for Hillcrest, seeded second in District 4 behind Webb City, naturally have changed.

Said Webb City coach John Roderique of John Beckham’s Hornets: “Hillcrest, a very, very athletic team, is overall better than last season. No question, they’re better than last season.

“They’re much improved on defense,” Roderique said. “They’re so fast and physical. Offensively, they’re more versatile on offense.

“I don’t know if they’re quicker (than the Cardinals),” Roderique said. “Gosh, surely, they’re comparable as far as the speed element.

“They (the Hornets) feast on people making mistakes,” Roderique said. “They pounce on you and make you pay for your mistakes.

“They have the balance between the run and pass on offense,” Roderique said. “They have the quarterback (Jonah Hill) who can run and throw the ball. They have two outstanding playmakers on offense in Juwan Johnson and Matt Rush. Plus, they have different threats than those main weapons.

“They will be a hand full,” Roderique said. “They seem to raise up and play better against the strong competition. They played very well against Carthage.”

Hillcrest defeated Big 8 Conference member Carl Junction 35-0 and COC Large Division member Carthage 49-20 to reach this juncture. Webb City turned back Ozark Conference member West Plains 45-7 and fellow COC member Republic 48-7.

Hillcrest pulled away from Carthage with a 21-0 advantage in the final period. Hill (32 yards, 3, 1) and Johnson (28,. 17, 63) each rushed for three scores.

Webb City led Republic 34-7 at the half. Phoenix Johnson finished with three TDs for the Cardinals.

CARDINAL NOTES: Roderique said the team  had a short practice on Sunday (similar to a Thursday workout before a Friday game) before a meal prepared by parents. ... Johnson paces the Cardinals in rushing yards (1,082) and points (132). Cooper Smith and John Roderique have rushed for 806 and 497, respectively. Johnson has rushed for 19 TDs, Roderique 11 and Smith 10. Roderique has completed 66 of 107 passes for 1,271 yards and 15 scores. Leading receivers are Kohl Slaughter (27 receptions for 636 yards and seven TDs) and Jalen Vaden (22-401-3). Kicker Alex Easley has kicked five field goals and 60 extra points. ... Leaders in tackles are Dalton Humphrey (74), Logan Williams (61), Jose Speer (60), Todd Fowler (58) and Nate Brown (50). Kiante Hardin and Fowler are 1-2 in interceptions with 6 and 2, respectively. ... Johnson is the Cardinals’ leader in punt returns (11 for 163 yards) and kickoff returns (five for 126). Landon Baker has punted nine times for a 33.4-yard average.