More than football will be on the minds of players, coaches and fans of both sides when Webb City hosts Joplin at 7 p.m. today in a Central Ozark Conference clash at Cardinal Stadium.
The highly anticipated rivalry game was pushed back a day after Joplin sophomore lineman Kadin Roberts-Day passed away after practice on Wednesday.
With that, school officials from Webb City and Joplin met on Thursday, ultimately deciding to play the game tonight.
Webb City coach John Roderique expressed his condolences and noted a loss of life puts the importance of a game into perspective.
“Everything else takes a backseat to the sadness you feel for the young man’s family, his teammates and coaches, his friends, the school and the entire community,” Roderique said. “It’s very sad when you think about what the family must be going through after losing a loved one. It’s awful. Your heart goes out to everyone who is dealing with that.”
As far as the matchup, both teams are coming off convincing Week 1 wins, as Class 4 No. 2 Webb City shut out Carl Junction 34-0 and Class 6 No. 5 Joplin handled Willard 36-13.
In last year’s meeting, the first between the schools as COC rivals, Webb City earned a 47-27 win in front of approximately 8,000 fans at a packed Junge Field. Of course, both programs advanced to the semifinals in their respective classes last year, with both ending the season with a loss to the eventual state champion.
“We know this is a highly anticipated game,” Roderique said. “Last year we were two of the top three teams in the conference. It’s our home opener, so we’re expecting a good crowd. Hopefully it will be a good football game.”
Webb City senior quarterback Kade Hicks is questionable for the contest, as he suffered a foot injury against Carl Junction. Roderique noted Hicks has made progress throughout the week. Junior Eli Goddard is a likely starter under center.
In last week’s win, Webb City recorded 386 yards of offense while surrendering only 62.
Junior Devrin Weathers ran for two touchdowns, while seniors Terrell Kabala and Dillon Harlen contributed one rushing touchdown apiece. Senior Cale McCallister hauled in a touchdown reception.
Senior Blake Tash leads Joplin from the quarterback position, while the running attack is led by senior Isaiah Davis and junior Nathan Glades. Of course, the Eagles have a standout wide receiver/defensive back/kick returner in senior Zach Westmoreland.
“Joplin’s skill players are extremely talented,” Roderique said. “They have some game-breakers, so they’re scary on offense. They’re effective in what they do offensively. They’re difficult to defend. The quarterback is outstanding and runs the show well. Davis is a workhorse and Westmoreland is extremely talented.”
The Cardinals will look to sustain drives with their patented split-back veer running attack. Joplin’s defense surrendered 313 yards of offense last week, 183 passing and 130 rushing, while limiting Willard to two touchdowns.
“Defensively, they’re well-disciplined, physical and fast,” Roderique said. “You can tell they’re well coached.”
Roderique noted his squad has made positive strides in practice this week.
“We feel like we have made improvements,” he said. “The whole season is a process of finding out your strengths and weaknesses and then working on those things as you build a team, offensively and defensively. Early on, there are still a lot of questions, but we’re getting the answers every week.”