With his team facing fourth-and-2 on the 31-yard line with just 22 seconds left in the first half of Saturday’s Class 4 semifinal against Ladue, Webb City coach John Roderique had a decision to make.
The veteran coach had several options — take a knee and let the clock run out on the half, attempt a field goal or hand the ball off to one of the team’s running threats. Instead, Roderique gambled on a different option.
After a timeout, Roderique inserted junior quarterback Eli Goddard into the game. Goddard took the snap, dropped back and fired a perfect pass over the middle to a streaking Cohl Vaden, who hauled in what could be described as a game-changing touchdown strike.
With the score, the Cardinals took a 21-point lead into intermission. Webb City would never look back, rolling to a 35-0 win over the defending state champion Rams, securing a spot in Friday’s Show-Me Bowl in Columbia.
“Sometimes you just have a feeling about something you want to try,” Roderique said. “We took a shot. We were trying to score on that one play that we had.”
Roderique noted assistant coach Scott Roderique, his nephew who is in charge of the passing game, called the play.
“What a great route by Cohl, and then Eli did what he’s done all year long,” John Roderique said. “He came in and fired away. Maybe we caught them off guard.”
Ladue coach Mike Tarpey noted the late touchdown was deflating for his team and likely gave the Cardinals an added boost of confidence.
“That was a big momentum play,” Tarpey said. “Instead of being down 14, we’re down 21. That’s tough to come back from. I’m sure that gave their kids more energy coming out of the locker room for the second half.”
This was the third consecutive season Webb City and Ladue have met late in the postseason. Tarpey noted he’s proud his program has been able to clash with Southwest Missouri’s perennial power.
“In Class 4 football in Missouri, there’s no one that doesn’t respect Webb City football,” Tarpey said. “For us to be able to play them the last three years has been great. We want to be the Webb City on our side of the state. As bad as the game went for us, it doesn’t define what our team has accomplished this year or the last few years.”
KEYS TO VICTORY
The Webb City offense was able to sustain drives throughout the contest, racking up 378 yards of offense. Controlling the time of possession, the Cardinals ran 66 plays, while Ladue’s offense ran 38. Ladue’s defense had only been allowing nine points per game, and the Rams had only allowed double figures in three games.
“That traditionally has been one of the best defenses we’ve faced,” Roderique said. “Those guys up front are amazing, and they’ve been that way for three years. What a great job by our guys up front. I thought Kade (Hicks) did a really nice job making some nice reads, and our backs ran the ball hard.”
A senior quarterback, Hicks noted the team’s defense helped out the offense again and again by keeping the Rams in check. Ladue totaled just over 100 yards of offense for the game.
“Our defense played light’s out today,” Hicks said. “And whenever we got the ball, we put it in the end zone. We just kept pounding the ball.”
THIS ‘N’ THAT
Ladue’s offense had not been shutout since the 2017 title game. The Rams had four turnovers, all interceptions. Webb City lost two fumbles. The Cardinals only punted once, a 53-yarder by Brayden Bond. Ahead of the game, Roderique noted limiting big plays would be crucial. Ladue’s longest play went for 25 yards.
Speedy senior running back Dillon Harlen once again gave the Cardinals a lift. Harlen ran seven times for 58 yards and a touchdown.
Harlen has made the most of his playing time all season when called upon to fill in for either Terrell Kabala or Devrin Weathers in the backfield.
“Dillon has been such a great player for us,” Roderique said. “He’s taken advantage of every opportunity, and I’m so proud of him.”
Webb City (13-1) meets Platte County (11-3) for the Class 4 title at 7 p.m. on Friday night at Faurot Field in Columbia.