When Friday night’s Class 4 quarterfinal reached halftime with the score deadlocked after a back-and-forth first half, John Roderique challenged his Webb City Cardinals to rise to the occasion.
Whatever words the veteran coach used, they worked.
Top-ranked Webb City controlled the second half to earn a decisive 62-34 win over the second-ranked Camdenton Lakers at Bob Shore Stadium.
Webb City (12-1) will host third-ranked Ladue (12-1) at 1 p.m. on Saturday in the semifinals.
A lopsided final score was hard to envision when the second quarter concluded.
In fact, the first half didn’t end particularly well for the Cardinals, as the Lakers had tied the score at 21 with an impressive drive, taking some confidence into the locker room.
“It was a tie ballgame, but it sure didn’t feel like we had any momentum,” Roderique said. “I thought it was all on their side at that point. In the first half, I felt like we made a lot of mistakes. I wasn’t very happy at halftime. We challenged them at halftime and talked about a few things we wanted to do differently.”
The visitors, who never trailed, won the second half 41-13.
The Cardinals took the lead right away in the third period en route to rattling off 21 unanswered points in the frame. The first drive of the second half went 57 yards on four plays, with a 29-yard pass from Kade Hicks to Colton McKee setting up a 24-yard touchdown run by Terrell Kabala.
“I think the key was that first drive in the second half,” Roderique said. “We moved the ball down and scored.”
The biggest takeaway of the night occurred with 5:10 remaining in the third period when Webb City junior defensive back Treghan Parker returned an interception 100 yards for a game-changing touchdown. Instead of a tie game, the Cardinals suddenly had a two-score advantage at 34-21.
“That gave us a boost,” Kabala said. “Our defense and our offense complemented each other.”
Hicks then directed a five-play, 90-yard scoring drive. Under pressure and about to be tackled, Hicks completed a 22-yard touchdown pass to Devrin Weathers, extending Webb City’s lead to 42-21.
“Kade made some good throws and he read the option really well,” Roderique said of his senior QB.
When the Webb City offense started clicking on all cylinders after the break, the Lakers simply couldn’t keep pace.
Need proof? Camdenton’s third-quarter possessions ended in the following ways — punt, interception, punt.
“I think our secondary played great after the first couple of drives,” said Parker, a junior defensive back who is among the team’s season leaders in tackles. “We had to figure out what their routes were and get comfortable. We locked down in the second half.”
Containing Camdenton quarterback Paxton DeLaurent isn’t easy. The 6-foot-5 signal-caller passed for more than 400 yards on 40 completions and also scrambled for 81 yards.
DeLaurent, who passed for more than 4,000 yards this season and nearly 7,800 for his career, has received an offer from Missouri Southern.
The Lakers (12-1) had been averaging 49 points per game.
“That’s a tough offense to defend,” Roderique said. “They can score so fast. Their offense can frustrate you. But if one guy can make a play to stop a drive it can make all the difference in the world.”
Webb City’s Cale McCallister had two interceptions for the Cardinals. The Missouri Southern baseball recruit nearly had a pick-6, but there were two flags thrown on the play. Ruben Lenker had eight tackles for the Cardinals, while Brayden Bond had five tackles and 2.5 sacks.
Webb City was flagged eight times for 80 yards, while the Lakers had 11 penalties for 85 yards.
Speedy senior Dillon Harlen gave the Cardinals a big boost at running back, recording 75 rushing yards and two touchdowns on seven carries.
Webb City has now ended Camdenton’s season in three straight years. Last year’s quarterfinal against the Lakers wasn’t decided until the final play of the game. That wasn’t the case this time around.
With Friday’s win secured, the Cardinals noted they’re ready to turn their attention to the semifinals.
“We’re going to practice hard this week and we’re looking to get another win and advance,” Parker said.
“We’re very confident right now, but we still need to get a week better,” Kabala said.