Everyone on Eudora High’s football field Friday night — from the former players, to the parents, to the team itself — knew what the 13-10 victory against Paola meant.
The Cardinals are going to the Class 4A state championship game for the first time ever.
“We just made history,” senior quarterback Derek Webb said.
Eudora did it in thrilling fashion, too.
From the first drive, the Cardinals did what the Cardinals do and ran the ball every play on an 11-play touchdown drive that took almost five minutes.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Panthers (11-2) fumbled the ball away and the Cardinals (12-1) set up for the next drive at the Paola 29. On the 15-yard line, they opted to go for it on fourth-and-eight and failed.
Paola returned the favor on its next drive and turned the ball over on downs, a questionable call considering the ball was on its own 23. With a second chance to go up two scores, Eudora fumbled the ball away a few plays later on the 17.
“I thought we blew it,” coach Gregg Webb said.
The 7-0 score would remain until after halftime. On the second play from scrimmage, Paola’s Tanner Staats burst for a 64-yard touchdown. The Panthers broke the tie in the fourth quarter with a field goal and 11 minutes remaining.
The Cardinals got the ball and after converting a fourth-and-one instead of kicking for the tie, senior running back Chris Pyle found his opening.
“I cut it right up, broke a tackle, and the rest is history,” Pyle said.
His 20-yard touchdown run with 5:15 to go in the game would prove to be the difference in the game, even though a blocked extra point kept the game within a field goal.
The next couple of Panther drives were ruined by clutch sacks from Alex Whitten and Gregg Snell.
The Cardinals’ defense once again shut down the Panthers’ offense, which had averaged 40.8 points coming into Friday night. Eudora held Paola to 10 points the last time the two teams met, a 18-10 victory on Sept. 30.
Surrounded by former players after the game, some of the best players Webb has ever coached, he said that his current team shared an important attribute with its predecessors.
“We’ve got a couple of those kids,” Webb said. “Walking down the hall, the nicest kids. Kids you want your daughter to marry. And then when they get out there, they’re just tough. They’re really awesome.”
As much as Webb didn’t want to admit it, this game wasn’t about schemes or tactics. There were five penalties in the entire game, and each team had one turnover. It was the players who decided this game on the field.
Looking around the field after the postgame celebration, Derek Webb, coach Webb’s son, saw faces. Faces filled with elation the school has never had before.
“We can’t disappoint,” he said. “We’ve got to keep moving on.”
Eudora will face Rose Hill (12-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26, at Salina Central High School Stadium.