By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer
Forgive Webb City head coach John Roderique and defensive coordinator Mike Smith if they were a bit reminiscent on Sunday evening.
Just 24 hours earlier the coaching duo had led the Webb City Cardinals to their third consecutive Missouri Class 4 state title.
No doubt a special moment. But it was made even more memorable by the fact that both coaches had senior sons on the team.
Roderique’s son, John, wrapped up a stellar senior year at quarterback by running for 105 yards and three touchdowns and throwing 105 yards and another score while Cooper Smith had a team-high 16 rushes for 68 yards and a touchdown in the 49-14 win over Jefferson City Helias at the Edward Jones Dome.
“It’s incredibly special,” Coach Smith said on Sunday. “I remember when Cooper and John were tiny kids, they would come to our Thursday practices and they would be in full pads and just tackle each other the entire practice.
“To see them begin there and then be ball boys and go all the way through the program and then come out and win a state championship as seniors, that’s special.”
While the two coaches were building the Webb City program into what it is today, the younger Smith and Roderique were busy building a friendship that started with a mutual understanding of each other’s life during football season.
“He always knew where I was coming from,” Cooper Smith said. “Our families were so busy with football and we both knew what that was like. We were good friends growing up.”
The younger Roderique said he remembers when Cooper Smith first moved to Webb City.
“It was cool because he was somebody who was also a coach’s son,” Roderique said. “I didn’t have to go through it alone, I had a friend there to hang out with and we could go to the Thursday practices and play football. I probably made him do that.”
While the players were celebrating after Saturday’s win, coaches Roderique and Smith said they suddenly realized what the parents of senior players were experiencing year in and year out when the season ends.
“It was really eye-opening,” Coach Roderique said. “It made me appreciate what parents go through at this time every year and the feelings and emotions they have.
“Seeing the finality, that they were done playing high school football, it was eye-opening.”
Coach Smith called it a bittersweet moment.
“The whole thing was bittersweet,” he said. “I was so elated and excited that they got to win a state championship, but I’m watching him walk off the field and I know it’s over. It tugs at an old man’s heart.”
Both players had to wait for their turn in Webb City’s impressive program. Neither started until this season and both took full advantage of the opportunity.
“There are a lot of similarities between those two guys,” Coach Roderique said. “They both came on late physically and matured later than some kids and they both waited their turn and stepped up and started this year.
“That says a lot for them and we have a lot of kids like that. We tell them to hang in there and keep working and by the time they’re seniors they might have the opportunity to be a good player. For them to keep at it says a lot about their personality and character.”