By Anvil Welch
Globe Sports Writer
WEBB CITY, Mo. —
Its specialty teams played a major role as Webb City beat Sullivan 35-6 on Saturday in a windy quarterfinal game of the MSHSAA Class 4 football playoffs.
The two-time defending state champion, hiking its overall winning streak to 43, built a 35-0 lead in the clash of 12-0 teams in nearly packed Cardinal Stadium.
Sullivan was ranked third behind No. 1 Webb City and Savannah in the final regular-season poll by the Missouri Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.
Webb City visits St. Louis St. Mary’s (11-2) at 1:30 p.m. next Saturday in the semifinals. The Dragons, in the semifinals for the first time, eliminated Hillsboro 37-14.
Harrisonville vs. Jefferson City Helias Catholic is the other semifinal.
Webb City’s Nate Brown, a returning all-state defender, set up two touchdowns in the second quarter by blocking a 40-yard field goal attempt and a punt. Those scores gave the Cardinals a 28-0 halftime lead.
Phoenix Johnson returned the blocked field goal 77 yards for the TD. Dalton Humphrey recovered the blocked punt on the Eagle 22 and Cooper Smith ran for the touchdown on first down.
Incredibly, the Cardinals had taken two snaps in the second quarter and doubled their lead.
Said Eagle coach Pat Burke: “We had some major, major breakdowns on specialty teams. Those really hurt.”
Said Cardinal coach John Roderique: “Obviously, those plays by Brown were huge. Sullivan actually controlled the clock in the second quarter.”
The 6-foot-4, 185-pound Brown first called his performance “decent.” He amended it, though.
“Those specialty teams plays made it a great day,” Brown said. “I also had a few tackles. That helps, too. Definitely, it was one of my better days.
“I was coming off the edge (on the blocked field goal),” Brown said. “Phoenix (Johnson) was to my right, The blocker picked him up. That allowed me to get the block and he picked up the ball. I came up the middle on the blocked punt.”
Webb City, after holding Sullivan on downs to open the game, responded with a 12-play, 58-yard scoring drive with the wind that was capped by quarterback John Roderique’s 4-yard run on third-and-4.
Roderique’s 11-yard completion to Jalen Vaden on third-and-9 moved the ball to the Eagle 10. Smith also carried for nine yards in the drive.
Alex Easley kicked his first extra point at 4:03.
Then, following another 3-and-out by Sullivan, the Cardinals zipped 64 yards in four plays with Roderique hitting Kohl Slaughter with a 33-yard scoring pass at :24. Smith had a 24-yard carry in the march.
The Webb City TDs in the second period came at 5:44 and 1:32, respectively.
Said quarterback Roderique: “I thought overall we played pretty good. We executed and did what we needed to do to get a win. We had to make some adjustments early in the game.”
Said Coach Roderique: “Overall, we played decent. We did some good things on offense. Some of those holding calls went our way.”
The Cardinal defense limited the Eagles to 119 rushing yards and 73 passing.
“You don’t see the Sullivan offense (double-wing) that much,” a pleased Roderique said. “They keep coming at you.”
Added Burke: “That’s one of the fastest defenses we’ve played against in a long, long time.”
Johnson’s 1-yard run at 9:34 — capping an 80-yard sortie opening the second half — finished Webb City scoring.
Justin Biermann’s 31-yard run gave Sullivan its TD with less than five minutes left in the contest.
Smith paced Webb City on the ground — it had 239 yards — with 81 on eight carries. Johnson added 39 yards, Roderique 38, Trey Parra 36 and Kyle Baldasarre 29. Roderique threw for 78 on 3-for-3 accuracy.
The Eagles’ Biermann rushed 14 times for 76 yards.