WEBB CITY, Mo. — Webb City’s fight song echoed throughout Cardinal Stadium as the entire football team stood side by side just moments after Friday night’s big Class 5 state quarterfinal game.
The players danced and sang in unison as the celebration began for a Webb City team that overcame plenty of early season ebbs and flows and are now just a win away from returning to the state championship game.
Thanks to a dominant second half performance, the No. 4 Cardinals made yet another statement as they pulled away from No. 7 Lebanon 35-13 on their home turf.
And this sounds familiar — Webb City (9-3) is back in the state semifinals and will play host to top-ranked Jackson (11-0) next Saturday. It marks the fifth year in a row that the Cardinals are in the Final Four and the 13th time in the last 14 years.
“It’s honestly surreal to think about where we are at right now,” Cardinals coach John Roderique said. “Just getting that opportunity to play again. Coach (Scott) Bailey has brought something to our kids about where we are playing for a seven-day contract, which is eight days because we are going to play Saturday. He has been preaching that for the last few weeks and our kids have really bought into it.”
Clinging to a 14-13 lead at halftime, the Cardinals responded with a huge second half, scoring 21 unanswered tallies on offense while pitching a shutout on defense.
“That’s just John Roderique for you,” said Webb City middle linebacker Cooper Crouch, who paced the defense with 11 tackles. “He’s going to find something that will help us out and get us going. But once we got back in that locker room, we knew we had to refocus. We knew we had to come out even better.”
It started when Webb City converted on fourth-and-3 at the goal line with 1:29 to play in the third quarter. Running back Dupree Jackson punched in a 4-yard scamper as the Cardinals built a 21-13 advantage.
Webb City’s mighty defense then forced Lebanon to go three-and-out on the ensuing drive, and the Cardinals turned that into another score. Quarterback Cohl Vaden connected with Dante Washington for a 29-yard touchdown strike as Webb City extended its lead to 28-13 with 10:34 to go in the game.
Then seven minutes later, Vaden iced the game with a 37-yard touchdown run to put the Cardinals back in a familiar spot in the postseason.
“I’m glad to be here,” Crouch said. “As a Webb City football player, it just feels great to keep the train going.”
Webb City got off to an ideal start thanks to a 1-yard touchdown run from Jackson to take a 7-0 lead at the 8:46 mark in the first quarter. On the ensuing drive, Lebanon tied the margin at 7-7 with a 4-yard touchdown run from Cade Muscia.
But Webb City did Webb City things and scored on a three-play, 54-yard touchdown drive to reclaim the lead on the next drive. Washington found paydirt on a 7-yard run with 11:57 to play in the opening half.
Lebanon trimmed the deficit down to 14-13 when kicker Quinton Doughty nailed a 40-yard field goal and then a 23-yarder just before halftime.
The Cardinals netted 289 total yards of offense (131 rush and 158 pass). Vaden completed 7 of 16 passes with one touchdown and one interception while running for a team-high 55 yards on 10 carries.
Cade Wilson finished with 11 carries for 49 yards. Jackson scored two touchdowns and had 20 yards on five attempts.
Washington led the receiving corps with four catches for 91 yards and a touchdown. William Hayes and Trey Roets also made positive contributions at receiver.
Webb City hopes to sing at least one more fight song.
“It feels great every single time I sing it, but getting to sing it one more game is always better,” Crouch said.
“That fight song … I remember several years ago I asked one of our choir people to come up with something,” Roderique said. “They knocked it out of the park, I believe. That is one of the great things about our school here. It’s all about the community and the whole school.”