It was three weeks ago that the Webb City football team suffered an uncharacteristic 42-14 setback to Carthage that dropped the Cardinals’ season record to 2-2.

Afterward, head coach John Roderique described the loss as an unfamiliar experience — and for good reason. In the previous decade, the overwhelming majority of the lopsided games he and his Webb City team competed in were victories. Not to mention, it marked the first time since 2016 that the Cardinals had suffered more than one loss in a regular season.

But as the race for the COC regular season title has shifted a two-team sprint between Joplin (6-0) and Carthage (6-0) — perhaps a three-team sprint with 5-1 Nixa considered — Webb City has quietly reverted back to its dominant ways.

It started with a 42-6 win at Carl Junction in Week 5. Then last Friday, the Cardinals moved to 4-2 with a 38-0 shutout over Branson.

“We feel like we’re improving, and that’s the name of the game,” Roderique said. “We’re just trying to get a little bit better every week. … It’s kind of a process to not only get your team improved but also fix the little things. We believe we’re getting there.”

As for that first flagship win of the season, the Cardinals will get their opportunity on Friday night when they travel to Nixa to take on the Eagles at at 7 p.m. The matchup will pit Webb City, ranked No. 4 in Class 5, against the third-ranked team in the COC standings as well as the sixth-ranked team in Class 6. .

“Nixa, to me, probably has as good of athletes as anyone,” Roderique said. “When you talk about some of the better teams of our league, they match up really well with everybody from a physicality standpoint. They have a lot of speed and really good athletes.”

Nixa has rebounded well since suffering a 28-25 loss to Joplin in Week 2, having claimed four consecutive victories of 11 points or more over Willard, Republic, Neosho and Ozark.

And one thing Webb City and Nixa have had in common is their ability to overcome injuries at key positions.

The Cardinals have played back-to-back games without two of its top playmakers in quarterback Cohl Vaden and running back Dupree Jackson, yet their offense managed to rattle off 80 combined points in those outings as they’ve leaned on the production of guys like Cade Wilson (RB), Landon Johnson (QB) and Dante Washington (WR).

“One of the things about this year with this team is that we probably don’t have as much depth as we’ve had in some years,” Roderique said. “At certain positions, we’ve played a couple newer guys and different guys in the last couple of weeks. But we’re coming along. Other guys are starting to show that they’re capable of stepping up, which is good.”

The Eagles, meanwhile, have been without standout running back Ramone Green, who was widely considered to be among the best offensive backs in the state heading into the year. In his absence, Nixa has averaged 36.7 points per game while claiming wins of 21-10 over Republic, 54-20 over Neosho and 35-21 over Ozark.

“Nixa is a team that, in recent years, has set itself up for success,” Roderique said. “So it will be a battle. I think one of the keys will be playing mistake-free and clean. We can’t let them extend drives with penalties. You also can’t set yourself up behind the chains offensively. So those two things are important, and then I’d say it comes down to who wins the most battles at the line of scrimmage.”

Nixa is seeking its first win over Webb City in program history. The Cardinals earned a 28-0 win over the Eagles in last year’s meeting at Cardinal Stadium.

CARL JUNCTION (3-3) AT REPUBLIC (3-3)

The Bulldogs have an opportunity to get back above .500 for the first time since Week 1 on Friday night as they take on a Republic team that’s suffered three losses in the last four weeks.

Granted, Republic’s setbacks have come against quality opponents in Webb City, Nixa and Joplin — three of the top four teams in the COC. However, the Tigers’ three wins on the year have come against Neosho, Willard and Ozark, who have a combined record of 1-17.

Carl Junction is coming off a 49-7 win over Neosho in a game that saw the Bulldogs take a 35-point lead into halftime. Junior quarterback Nathan Planchon completed 7 of 9 passes for 209 yards and three touchdowns while Jordan Woodruff tallied three receptions for 142 yards and a touchdown.

The Bulldogs picked up a 28-21 win over Republic last season in Carl Junction.

NEOSHO (0-6) AT OZARK (1-5)

Neosho seeks its first win under first-year head coach Brandon Taute on Friday night as it hits the road to take on Ozark at 7 p.m. at Tiger Stadium.

The Wildcats are averaging 16.8 points per game while surrendering 54.7 ppg to their opponents. A win would mark Neosho’s first since October of 2019 when it claimed a 34-28 triumph over Republic.

Ozark’s lone win of the season was a 52-0 victory over Willard in Week 5. The Tigers, averaging 23.8 ppg and allowing 32.8 ppg to the opposition, have lost to Carthage, Branson, Joplin, Republic and Nixa.

Ozark defeated the Wildcats 31-7 in last year’s meeting at Neosho.

Contact Jared Porter on Twitter at @JaredRyanPorter.

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