Eudora High football coach Gregg Webb is an optimist of the highest order.
So much so that, had someone told him at the beginning of the 2006 season his team would finish 11-1, win two Class 4A state playoff games and run the regular-season table for the first time in school history since the schedule was expanded to nine games, he's not sure he would have taken it and gone his merry way.
"I'm awful proud of what we accomplished, there's no doubt about that," said Webb, this year's Super 25 Area Coach of the Year. "And maybe I would have taken 11-1. I may have said, 'Give me a chance. I'd like to do better.'"
In fact, Webb believes better should have happened. Three weeks after watching his team fall to Girard, 21-14, in the 4A state quarterfinals, he continues to have a bit of a tortured soul, still hurting that the Cardinals lost, still confident they should have won.
It's that devotion, that stubborn unwillingness to compromise, that has made the Cardinals a consistent winner during Webb's five-year tenure. Since taking over in Eudora, he's averaged nine wins per season and made his program an annual player in not just the competitive Frontier League, but across state 4A ranks.
"There's no doubt the bar has been set awful high here," Webb said. "And I'm proud of that ... that Eudora is one of the teams you have to be aware of in 4A.
"That's a great thing."
Webb said a number of events factored into a successful 2006 campaign, the best of his five-year run. However, none played as big a role as the decision just weeks prior to the season opener to use his players on just one side of the football - an almost unheard-of concept at a school with an enrollment of less than 400 students.
After deciding whom he felt would be his most important offensive contributors, Webb turned over the remaining players to his assistant coaches to cobble together a defense.
The end result was a unit that surrendered an average of just 11.3 points per game.
"They just coached them up so hard and so well," said Webb of his staff. "We were so focused on defense. Our staff did such a great job. They really came together as a unit and just played their tails off."
While Webb eagerly spread the love for his staff and its ability to take care of business on the field, he was also quick to point out the many support groups - administration, boosters, fans - that have helped create not just a winning football program, but a successful Eudora athletic department across the board.
"It's no accident around here why those things happen," Webb said.