WEBB CITY JACKSON

Webb City running back Dupree Jackson (28) runs past Jackson's Ryley Styer during their Class 5 semifinal football game on Saturday at Cardinal Stadium in Webb City. Globe | Jessica Greninger

It all comes down to this.

Perhaps an appearance in this year’s state finals wasn’t much of a guarantee for Webb City back when it was 4-3 just past the midway point of the regular season. But sure enough, the Cardinals have caught fire at the end of the season — picking up consecutive wins over No. 2 Carthage, No. 7 Lebanon and No. 1 Jackson — to make a return to their second home in Columbia, Mo.

The last team standing in the way of No. 4 Webb City’s 16th gold ball in program history is No. 3 Holt (13-0). The Class 5 Show-Me Bowl is slated for 7 p.m. Friday at Memorial Stadium on the campus of the University of Missouri.

“Something that keeps resonating on my mind with this team is just really how far we’ve come from the beginning to the end,” said Webb City head coach John Roderique, who’s looking to claim his 13th state title with the Cardinals. “You know, we started off and, quite frankly, we just weren’t a good team. … I think the most rewarding thing is how these kids have just continued to battle and fight. When you have adversity in your life, that’s what makes you stronger. You’ve got to be willing to work a bit harder.

“It’s more than just the guys that are playing on the field. Our coaches have talked a lot about that. It’s also our (scout team) players who are giving us looks and showing what defense or offense the other team is going to run. So it’s everybody. You can’t put your finger on just one or two guys.”

Friday will mark Webb City’s 19th appearance in a state championship football game since 1989. However, it will be the program’s first in Class 5, a classification in which the Cardinals have competed for the past two seasons.

Webb City’s 15 state championships to this point have all come in Class 4.

“It’s different just in the fact that you’re going to play a lot of different teams when you change classes,” Roderique said. “I don’t know if it (a Class 5 title) would make it more rewarding, but I do know that this season in general has been very rewarding. Again, just from the standpoint of where we were and our journey to get to this point.”

Holt, meanwhile, is a St. Louis-area program that dropped from Class 6 after last season. The Indians are coming off a 31-14 triumph over Fort Osage in the state semifinals.

Holt is averaging 44.4 points per game while limiting its opponents to 13.6 PPG. However, the Indians’ offense will be without senior quarterback Cooper Brown, a 2,900-plus yard passer who threw for 37 touchdowns this season before being injured last week against Fort Osage.

Still, the Indians won’t lack offensive playmakers. Senior running back Kyle Wuebbeling has rushed for 1,642 yards and 22 TDs on 228 carries, while senior wide receiver Jackson Smith has caught 103 passes for 1,151 yards and 18 TDs. Senior Alex Ginnever has 33 catches for 631 yards and eight scores.

The Holt defense is led by senior Zakhi Johnson and junior Kaden Moore, who have accounted for 140 and 112 tackles, respectively. The Indians have amassed an impressive 82.5 tackles for loss on the season.

Webb City, coming off 35-21 upset win over top-ranked Jackson, is averaging 39.7 PPG and limiting opponents to 21.5 PPG.

Cardinal senior QB Cohl Vaden has completed 54% of his passes for 903 yards and nine TDs with just three interceptions. His top target, junior Dante Washington, has hauled in 28 passes for 612 yards and eight TDs.

The senior running back duo of Cade Wilson and Dupree Jackson has amassed over 2,300 yards and 42 TDs for Webb City. Wilson is coming off a four-TD showing against Jackson.

The Cardinals’ resurgent defense has played a big role in the team’s recent success, allowing just 15.5 PPG in the playoffs. Webb City surrendered just 21 points last week to a Jackson team that was averaging 48 PPG, and it held Carthage to a season-low 21 points in the district championship.

Webb City has three defenders with triple-digit tackles this season in senior Cooper Crouch (129), junior Lucas Ott (119) and junior Kyler Darnell (110). The team has also generated 12 interceptions on the season, with Washington leading the way with five.

“Holt is a really good team with an array of different weapons and good players,” Roderique said. “So I’m sure this will be another battle. Kind of like us, they’re going to line up and get after you. But I think our guys are excited and ready to get out there. We’ve had a solid week of preparation, and all there is to do now is leave it all out on the field one more time.”

Contact Jared Porter on Twitter at @JaredRyanPorter.

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