COLUMBIA, Mo. — John Roderique has won plenty of championships at Webb City.
State title No. 13 for the Cardinals head football coach was the closest yet as his squad held off a late charge from Wentzville Holt to win 26-21 on Friday night at Faurot Field.
DuPree Jackson intercepted a pass at the 3-yard line as time expired to thwart a feverish comeback from the Indians, who trailed 26-7 when the fourth quarter started.
This was the closest margin of win since the Cardinals won the 2008 Class 4 title, 41-34, against Jefferson City Helias Catholic. Every other title under Roderique, the Cardinals won by margins between two touchdowns and 49 points.
This state title is the first for the school in Class 5 and the 16th overall, which allowed the Cardinals to break a tie atop the MSHSAA all-time leaderboard with Valle Catholic.
“Honestly, I don’t think we think about that a lot,” Roderique said of breaking the state record. “It’s a lot of history and this team just won a state championship and these kids got to fulfill a lifelong dream for them. When we are done and I’m done coaching and looking back, it is pretty amazing and says a lot about our program. Certainly there are thousands of guys, hundreds of guys. It’s not like we wake up every day and talk about trying to win 16. We just want to be better than we were yesterday.”
The Cardinals gave up the initial score and then rattled off 26 in a row, which set the stage for what appeared to be on the way to another lopsided state title win for the Cardinals (11-3).
Holt (13-1) got on the board first with a 23-yard touchdown run by Kyle Wuebbeling on the first possession of the game. Webb City, winners of seven in a row to close the season, rattled off touchdowns on the next two possessions.
Cade Wilson capped the 13-play drive with a 1-yard touchdown. The next possession started with 54 seconds left in the first quarter and stretched into the 7-minute mark of the second quarter when DuPree Jackson scored on a 3-yard run. That was another 13-play drive for the Cardinals, who had 72 total plays compared to Holt’s 51.
Webb City took a 14-7 lead into the half but added to it the first possession of the third quarter. The Cardinals ate more than 6 minutes off the clock when Jackson capped the 15-play drive with a 6-yard run. Three plays later, the Cardinals had the ball back when Kaylor Darnell recovered a fumble at midfield.
Five plays after the turnover, Wilson’s 13-yard touchdown run gave the Cardinals a 26-7 lead with 1:47 left in the third.
Then things got interesting for the Cardinals and Indians midway through the fourth.
Facing a 2nd-and-4 at the Holt 7-yard line, Webb City went for the game-ending touchdown. Instead, Caden Duke intercepted a pass at the 2-yard line.
Holt responded by going on a 10-play, 95-yard drive as Owen Merrell hit Jackson Smith for a 18-yard touchdown.
“I kind of call them how I see them and I tell our coaches ‘we think we might want to throw it,’” Roderique said. “My whole thought process was, I hope I didn’t cost these kids a state championship by calling a pass play that got intercepted. Terrible call. I made mistakes like everybody out there. That is one I’m glad they saved my butt on that one. That is would be one hard thing to live with, we had a chance to finish them.”
Holt recovered the onside kick and needed two plays to score, with Merrell hitting Isaiah Slaughter for a 31-yard touchdown only 43 seconds later.
A second onside kick attempt didn’t work but Holt forced Webb City to punt and took over at the 13-yard line with 1:20 left but with no timeouts.
Merrell, who was forced into the starting role after quarterback Cooper Brown broke his collarbone last week, threw a 39-yard pass to Slaughter to move the ball to the Webb City 36. A 14-yard pass to Ty Williams moved the ball to the 24-yard line.
Two plays later, the game ended with Jackson’s pick.
“It means a lot, I’ve been wanting to win a state championship since I was little playing pee-wee football,” said Cardinals senior center/defensive tackle Buddy Belcher.
Belcher helped continue a family tradition by winning the title as his dad, Josh, was on Roderique’s 2000 state championship squad. Likewise, senior Brentan Wilson’s dad, Bobby, played for Roderique on the 1997 state championship team.
The legacy part of championships for Roderique and Webb City is underway.