Statistically, it already entered the game with a huge edge.
And when Webb City recovered an onside kick to open Saturday’s Class 4 state semifinal game at St. Mary’s, it was all smooth sailing for the Cardinals.
“It was good to get out and set the tempo,” Webb City quarterback John Roderique said. “We wanted to get ahead early.”
That’s exactly what the Cardinals did. Two plays after Landon Baker’s recovery, Roderique connected with tight end Kohl Slaughter for a 38-yard touchdown. On the day, the senior completed 16 of 20 passes for 249 yards and three scores as Webb City throttled St. Mary’s, 47-7.
The victory, its 45th in succession, sends Webb City (15-0) into the state title game against Helias at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. Helias defeated Harrisonville 17-7 in the other semifinal.
St. Mary’s, which was playing in the first semifinal in school history, finished 11-3.
Like most Missouri players and coaches, St. Mary’s had heard all about Webb City and its 10 state titles. But actually lining up against the Cardinals was the biggest challenge of their gridiron lives.
“They were incredible.” St. Mary’s quarterback Kevin Hennessy said of Webb City. “They’re the best team I’ve ever seen.”
Except for a handful of penalties and an interception off a deflection, the Cardinals played a near-perfect game.
“I’d say we probably watch that film and it was probably a lot less perfect than it looked,” said Webb City coach John Roderique, the quarterback’s father. “But we did some really good things. … It never gets old. It humbles me to coach the great kids in this program.”
With their balanced attack — they also rushed for 242 yards on the day — the Cardinals can beat teams in a variety of ways. From the start, St. Mary’s put a lot of defenders in the box, so Webb City went to the air early.
“They were up there and were doing a little blitzing,” the coach said. “What we did was predicated on their defense.”
While the Webb City defense was busy stuffing St. Mary’s run-oriented attack, the Cardinals poured on the points. Cooper Smith scored from 4 yards out with 6:43 left in the quarter. Then following an interception by Austin White, Roderique capped a 54-yard drive by hitting Jalen Vaden on a 4-yard score.
In the second quarter, Roderique hit Jake Kent on a 7-yard scoring pass and Smith ran in his second TD from 15 yards out. Alex Easley tacked on each of the PATs but one, to give the Cardinals a commanding 34-0 halftime advantage.
St. Mary’s running back Brandon Polito, who came into the contest with 2,056 yards rushing and 39 touchdowns, finished with a hard-earned 92 yards on 18 carries. St. Mary’s attempted three passes, but completed none.
Smith added a third score from 21 yards out midway through the third quarter, setting in motion the running clock. After Webb City tacked on another score on a 2-yard run by Trey Parra, Hennessy kept the Dragons from being shut out when he scored on a 57-yard run with 7:27 left to play.
“They were at least as good as advertised, maybe better,” St. Mary’s coach Jake Parent said of the Cardinals. “If you’re going to lose, you want to go out against a team like that.”