WEBB CITY, Mo — If there’s one thing Webb City has proven in its program history, the Cardinals have rarely been an underdog.

Until Friday night against unbeaten Nixa.

In a battle of perhaps the two best teams in southwest Missouri, Webb City handed Nixa its first loss of the season in a 28-0 blanking at Cardinal Stadium. It’s the second time the Cardinals have pitched a shutout on defense this season, the first a 45-0 decision over Neosho in Week 2.

The Eagles slipped into second place in the Central Ozark Conference standings behind Carthage (6-0). Webb City (6-1, 5-1 COC) is third after losing its game against Carthage because of COVID-19.

“I felt like we were an underdog going into this game,” Webb City coach John Roderique said. “There were probably more people that expected us to lose this game than to win it. Maybe we played with a little bit of a chip on our shoulder.

“They have the most wins in our conference and that brought the best out of us.”

Nixa coach John Perry said he had no excuses for the loss.

“They outplayed us, they outcoached us,” Perry said. “That is a good football program. That is the model of where we are going. We are not there yet. To figure out how to be the best, you have to play the best. We need to play more folks like that. The only way you know how to get there is by playing them.”

And the Cardinals were in complete control of the game in all three phases of the game from the onset.

Webb City’s defense forced multiple three-and-outs early, including an interception of Nixa’s Reid Potts near midfield midway through the first quarter.

That set up a run from quarterback Cole Gayman, who found paydirt from 10 yards out on a keeper to get the Cardinals on the board.

With three minutes left in the second quarter, Webb City marched down field on a 16-play, 80-yard drive, culminating into a seven-yard rushing touchdown from running back Dupree Jackson for a 14-0 halftime lead.

“I was nervous at the beginning, but when the game got started I was all right,” Jackson said of his first start in place of Cade Wilson, who will miss the rest of the season due to a lower leg fracture. “There was no added pressure with this game. (All the underdog talk) made us more motivated.”

Webb City stretched its lead to 21-0 in the third quarter, going nearly the length of the field after a nine-play, 91-yard drive when quarterback Eli Goddard connected with receiver Cohl Vaden for a 13-yard touchdown pass.

“I thought that drive was a huge plus for us and it certainly gave our kids a lot of confidence,” Roderique said.

In the fourth quarter, Gayman punched in the dagger from six yards out to give the Cardinals a 28-0 lead.

“I thought our kids stepped up at practice and I thought our attention to detail was much better this week than through the season,” Roderique said. “Our guys played with a lot of guts in all three phases. That was a phenomenal effort by our defense because Nixa has scored a lot of points this year and they are really, really talented.

“Our defense continues to get better each and every week. That made a huge difference for our football team.”

Webb City ran 67 plays for 384 total yards of offense. Running back Devrin Weathers carried the ball 22 times for 132 yards while Jackson added 102 yards on 18 rushing attempts.

Gayman completed 4-of-9 passes for 66 yards. He rushed for 59 yards on 12 attempts and for two scores. Vaden caught three passes for 50 yards and Weathers came up with two receptions for 29 yards.

Nixa ran 49 plays for 163 yards. Standout tailback Ramone Green was held to 66 yards on 19 carries. The Tigers quarterback duo of Austin McCracken and Reid Potts completed just 7-of-25 passes for 83 yards, including two interceptions.

“We struggled a little bit and we probably should have run the ball more early on because they were dropping so many people,” Perry said. “We had a blown assignment on one of the interceptions that really should have been a touchdown. We had a receiver out, so we had to move some guys around.

“I thought that was a great test for us and golly, they whooped us. It is what it is. We will regroup and be ready to roll.”

Webb City travels to Ozark (5-2) next Friday at 7 p.m.