Webb City football head coach John Roderique is more than willing to throw in a little football practice with his Thanksgiving Day turkey.
It’s become somewhat of an annual tradition for him and his Cardinals, who have been fortunate enough to spend their last five Thanksgivings — and a plethora of others in the last two decades — together on a football field in preparation for deep runs in the state playoffs.
Thursday’s holiday was a continuation of just that as fourth-ranked Webb City (9-3) readied for its Class 5 semifinal tilt against top-ranked Jackson (12-0). The highly anticipated matchup between the two perennial powers will kick off at 1 p.m. Saturday at Cardinal Stadium in Webb City.
“It’s fantastic to be practicing on Thanksgiving,” Roderique said. “It’s kind of one of those get-to things. Not everybody gets to do that, and we feel fortunate to be able to practice on Thanksgiving. As I tell our kids, you just have to appreciate it because not everybody gets that opportunity in their careers. So overall, we had a really fun week of practicing.”
Up next for Webb City, a 35-13 victor over Lebanon last week in the quarterfinals, is a Jackson team that’s won 26 consecutive games and looks to defend a Class 5 state title from a year ago. Jackson’s last loss came in the Class 5 finals in 2019 when it suffered a 27-21 overtime setback to Carthage.
The Indians’ season resume is impressive, to say the least. No other team has come within 18 points of Jackson, which is outscoring its opponents by an average of 40 points per game.
Jackson has opened the playoffs with wins of 59-7 over Mehlville, 52-14 over Seckman and 49-14 over Rockwood Summit.
“They’re obviously a really good team in all phases,” Roderique said of Jackson. “You don’t really see any weaknesses in them. It’s a big test for us certainly to play somebody like this.
“We always enjoy playing different opponents, but you kind of wish it wasn’t someone with their credentials. They’re well-coached, their kids play hard, they play physical and fast. Plus they’re just multiple offensively. They can do so many things and really get you in a bind.”
The Jackson offense is led by senior quarterback Cameron Marchi, who has completed 70% of his passes for 2,492 yards and 39 touchdowns with just four interceptions. His top target, senior receiver Kannen Turley, has 54 catches for 1,202 yards and 15 TDs while Junior Isaiah Davis has hauled in 47 passes for 878 yards and 20 TDs.
Joining Marchi in the offensive backfield is running back Tony Williams, who has rushed for 970 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Webb City is riding a five-game win streak to follow up a 4-3 start to the season. The Cardinals’ most notable win was a 28-21 triumph over second-ranked Carthage in the Class 5 District 6 championship — a win that avenged as 42-14 setback in Week 4 of the regular season.
Roderique credited much of his team’s late-season surge to its resurgent defense. The Cardinals have held their opponents to just 13.6 PPG in the playoffs. The 21 points Webb City limited Carthage to was a season-low for the Tigers, who entered the contest averagaing 43.4 PPG.
“I think clearly our defense has played well as of late,” Roderique said. “That’s where we’ve seen the most progress from the middle of the regular season to now. But also, a lot of it is just our kids and how they’ve battled, competed and kept working through some adversity. They’re really a resilient bunch, and I’ve really enjoyed that part of it.”
The Webb City offensive attack features a stout ground game with running backs Cade Wilson and Dupree Jackson, both seniors, averaging a combined 190 rushing yards per game. Wilson and Jackson also lead the team in TDs with 21 and 16, respectively.
Cardinals’ senior quarterback Cohl Vaden, in eight games played, has completed 53% of his passes for 774 yards and five TDs with five interceptions. Junior Daunte Washington has hauled in 25 of those passes for 541 yards and eight TDs.
The winner between Webb City and Jackson will advance to the state championship to take on Holt or Fort Osage on Dec. 3 in Columbia, Missouri.