With the wind at his back, Johnny Weidmaier was throwing the ball all over the field Saturday afternoon at Cardinal Stadium.
It was when Weidmaier, Kearney’s senior quarterback, and the Bulldogs’ offense had to go into the wind that Mother Nature and the Webb City defense brought the pressure.
Webb City, the four-time defending Missouri Class 4 state champion, continued its quest for five in a row with a 38-7 victory over Kearney in the Class 4 semifinals.
The Bulldogs end their season 12-2 while the Cardinals, 14-0, advance to next Saturday’s state championship game against Cape Girardeau Central after a 42-21 victory over St. Charles West on Friday night.
“The plan was to control the ball in the first and third quarter, when we were going into the wind and then score as much as we could in the second and fourth quarters,” said Weidmaier, who was 12 of 17 passing for 104 yards.
“(Webb City) did a good job bringing pressure; we picked it up a few times, but they were still able to get to me some. They do a great job hiding where the pressure will come from and who they’re blitzing.”
Weidmaier was sacked seven times, and when the Webb City defense was not pressuring Weidmaier, it was focused on stopping the Kearney ground game and senior tailback Reagan Frakes, who had 45 yards in 14 carries.
“We came out and we’re moving the ball against the wind in the first quarter, and then we get a holding penalty to stall a drive, another ends on a fourth-down stop,” Kearney coach Greg Jones said. “Then we get the wind in the second quarter, we’re already down 10-0, we hit for a big pass play, and then we turn it over.
“They convert it, we’re down 17-0 before we finally finish a drive. We felt good at the end of the first quarter, but one penalty and one turnover made a big difference in the first half.”
Webb City used a strong wind out of the south at its back in first quarter as junior quarterback Tyson Roderique completed all four of his attempts to senior Kiante Hardin.
Hardin’s four receptions totaled 116 yards: a 40-yard reception, a 7-yard slant for a touchdown, a 34-yard catch and a 35-yard reception on the final play of the quarter to start a drive that led to Cory Duley’s 22-yard field goal early in the second quarter.
Trailing 17-0, Weidmaier began connecting on the Bulldogs’ second possession of the second quarter. He completed a pass for no gain to Frakes and then was incomplete on second down before connecting on four straight throws.
He hit Coalten Klenda for 12 and 24 yards on back-to-back plays and then Cale Garrett for 1 and 28 yards for a first down at the Webb City 14.
On the next play, Frakes took the handoff on an isolation play off left tackle, broke a tackle at the 5 and carried another defender into the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown run and a 17-7 score.
Webb City started the second half with an 86-yard kickoff return, Keeton Marsh took the return from the Webb City 13 to the Kearney 1 where he was pushed out of bounds. Hunter Vanlue scored on the next play for a 24-7 lead 14 seconds into the second half.
On the Bulldogs’ next drive, facing fourth and 10 at the Kearney 43, the Bulldogs lined up to punt, but the snap was directed to Frakes as one of the punt protectors, he lobbed a pass to Ryan Hoffman who made a diving catch for a 17-yard reception and a first down at the Webb City 41.
The drive was thwarted on the next play as junior linebacker Kolesen Crane intercepted Weidmaier at the Webb City 28.
“The second-half kickoff return set the tempo, and the interception came at a time where we just made a great play on special teams to convert a fourth down,” Jones said. “My hat goes off to them, they played better, showed up in force and we didn’t play our best game. Their No. 5 (Hardin), he’s pretty fast. We tried it all (to cover him) and they had an answer.”
Austin Carter, Webb City junior linebacker, had three of the Cardinals’ seven sacks on Weidmaier and a fumble recovery.
“Our coaches wanted us to focus on stopping the run and once we got them in a position where they had to throw it, we knew we could bring speed off the edge and get to the quarterback,” Carter said.
The Cardinals completed the scoring with Roderique connecting with Maquel Harbin for a 19-yard touchdown strike in the third quarter and Tyler Davison’s had a two-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.