Eudora High’s football team has seen its share of quality opponents this season en route to the Class 4A state championship game. However, none has been as dynamic as Rose Hill, the Cardinals’ opponent at 1 p.m. today at Salina District Stadium.
After all, this is the best of the east — EHS (12-1) — against the best of the west — the Rockets (12-1).
Said Eudora coach Gregg Webb: “This is probably the most challenging week that we’ve had all year as far as trying to scheme a way to stop them, but I suppose that’s the way it’s supposed to be when you’re playing for a state championship.”
Webb, who coached in nine state title games and won five at Claflin, said simply moving the football against RHHS, which has allowed just 10.7 points a game, could be difficult enough. Throw in the fact that the Rockets have a dual-threat quarterback, senior Derrick Decker, and things get a bit more complicated.
Rose Hill (averaging 43.3 points), Webb added, is rolling on offense because of Decker, whom he said could be the best QB Eudora has faced all year. The thing that makes Decker so tough to prepare for, the coach said, is his ability to run or throw.
“When you put a kid back there at quarterback that can do both … successfully, then you’ve got issues,” Webb said.
The Cardinals’ defense, on par with Rose Hill’s in allowing only 10.6 points, has made a habit of taming high-powered offenses. Eudora’s previous five opponents have a combined record of 41-15, but scored an average of just 11.6 points against EHS. The Cardinals held Basehor-Linwood (42.7 ppg) to 21 and Chanute (30.3) to 13, and Paola, which scored 43.5 points a game against every other team it played besides Eudora, was held to 10 twice this season by EHS.
Eudora’s offensive effectiveness, Webb said, will play just as much of a role as the defense in limiting Rose Hill’s scoring.
“I think we can move the ball a little bit. We’re gonna have to,” Webb said. “If we give them a lot of possessions, they’re gonna score some points.”
It will be up to the Cardinals’ offensive line — Greg Snell, Alex Whitten, Nick Becker, Jared Ireland and Jarrod Kaup — and the three-headed rushing monster in the backfield — QB Derek Webb and running backs Greg Pyle and Gabe Cleveland — to make that happen. And although EHS doesn’t throw the ball often (Derek Webb has just 87 attempts and 36 completions), Gregg Webb said wide receiver Andrew Ballock (19 catches, 327 yards) may be too talented a weapon to keep out of the game plan.
The whole experience will be a little different: playing for a state championship (Eudora’s first) on a Saturday afternoon on a neutral field. But Pyle said the Cardinals aren’t too worried about any of those things.
“It might be a little harder to adjust to during the warm-ups,” he said, “but I think once we get things going it will turn out well.”