When gametime approaches between Joplin and Webb City tonight at Cardinal Stadium, football will be a secondary thought in everybody’s mind.
The Joplin Eagles lost a member of their family when sophomore Kadin Roberts-Day passed away shortly after an indoor practice at Kaminsky Gymnasium on Wednesday.
It goes without saying, but the Eagles will be playing with heavy hearts as they line up against their rival.
“Honestly, these last few days have been focused on being there for each other,” Joplin coach Curtis Jasper said. “We met (Thursday) morning and again after school. We kind of just threw the ball around on the field and talked a little bit after we met before having the team meal. It has just been a lot of being around each other and supporting each other, especially Kaian (Roberts-Day, Kadin’s twin brother) as best as we can.”
While it may seem like an impossible task to play a football game after such a tragedy, the Eagles received some words of encouragement on Thursday from Kadin’s mother, Lashonda Roberts.
“She said Kadin talked about this game a lot and that he would want us to play,” Jasper said. “The family wants us to play.”
After a team meeting, the team decided they wanted to play the game in Kadin's honor.
“I think at this point in time, the more things we do together, the better it is,” Jasper said. “The time we spent together on Thursday, including the team meetings and the team meal, were the times where you saw people smile and feel normal, even though it’s not.
“I am going to be honest with you. Tomorrow night is going to be more about the family moving forward than it is about anything else.”
Joplin enters tonight's 7 o'clock contest with a 1-0 record after defeating Willard 36-13 in Week 1.
“I really thought the offensive line did a really good job playing its first true game together,” Jasper said. “I want to see them carry that momentum forward into this game. All of the position groups played really well, but the offensive line really stuck out in my mind.”
Webb City (1-0) is coming off of a convincing 34-0 win over Carl Junction.
Last season was the first matchup between the Eagles and Cardinals as COC rivals. Aside from Xs and Os, one thing really stood out to Joplin in terms of what kind of program Webb City has under legendary coach John Roderique.
“Everybody knows that when you play Webb City, they are going to be very physical and they are going to play extremely hard,” Jasper said. “The big thing that you take away from when you play them is they aren’t going to give you anything. You are going to have to fight and claw for everything you get.”