Ballock_leap__LouisburgAndrew Ballock leaps for the end zone during the Cardinals season opening game against Piper (photo by Eudorareporter.com photojournalist Julie Stewart)

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For the second week in a row, the Eudora Cardinals had to deal with thunder. In both cases the thunder won. Last week, mother nature provide the thunder on Friday night to force the game to Saturday. This week, the Cardinals took one on the chin from the St. James Academy Thunder at St. Thomas Aquinas High School Stadium on Thursday night by a final score of 27-21.

The Cardinals got off to a good start when, on their first possession of the game, QB Andrew Ballock threw a 61 yard pass to little brother Mitchell Ballock for a touchdown 1:32 into the contest. Kicker Grant Elston missed the extra point attempt and the Cards were up 6-0 and it looked like they may be on their way to rolling over St. James.

The Cards then started playing the style of football they seemed to have embraced this season, bend but don’t break defense. St. James moved the ball down the field but the Eudora defense made several key stops. It wasn’t until 8:26 left in the half when St. James QB Alex King hit WR Ryan Hand for a 36 yard touchdown pass. With the extra point, St. James took the lead and the Thunder started to roll.

Lightning struck the Cardinals with nearly 6 minutes left in the half when QB Andrew Ballock went down in the middle of the pile on a run up the middle. Ballock was down for several minutes as trainers worked on his ankle. Ballock left the field with the assistance of a couple of coaches. Ballock was not able to support himself on the damaged ankle and most fans knew that his night was most likely over. RB Grant Elston took over at quarterback and initially looked a little tenuous following the injury.

Ballock wasn’t the only player to take a seat on the sidelines. Lineman Blake Beerbower took a shot to the head in the first half and was forced out of the game with a possible concussion. These two key injuries forced Eudora into some situations and playing positions they weren’t used to. With Ballock and Beerbower out, the Thunder took advantage quickly and started moving the ball down the field. St. James QB Alex King took off like he had in many previous running plays and, with 4:29 left in the half, broke through the secondary and was off to the races for a 69 yard touchdown giving them a 14-6 lead they took into the locker room at halftime.

Midway through the 3rd quarter, St. James put the ball in the end zone as their offensive line seemed to have a lot less trouble punching holes in the Eudora defense. Thunder tailback Jake Blade scored from 2 yards out with 7:31 left in the 3rd. It looked like it was going to be an agonizing half for the Cards, but near the end of the third Elston found his comfort zone and started opening up the game. Elston opened the 4th quarter with a 26 yard field goal to cut the lead to 12. Just three minutes later, King put 6 more on the board when he ran it in from 5 yards out. St. James missed the extra point with 8:55 and a see-saw battle was taking shape. Eudora was not ready to throw in the towel though. Elston proved that he was more than a small running back when he started passing the ball trying to lead the comeback. He hit J.T. Howell on a 14 yard pass with 5:49 left and connected with Mitchell Ballock at the 3:11 mark with a 23 yard to pull the team within 6. The Cards attempted the onside kick and despite a small rugby scrum on the kick, St. James came up with the ball and blunted the Cardinals comeback hopes by running out the clock after gaining two first downs on running plays.

Following the game, Head Coach Kevin Kopecky talked about how the injuries played a huge factor in the 2nd half.

“We lost Andrew and Beerbower, two pretty key guys and two seniors,” Kopecky said. “We don’t make excuses though and we had to have some guys step up. I’m proud of the way the kids battled, at least we didn’t lay down and die.”

Kopecky could not comment on the exact nature of the injury following the game.

“It could be a sprain or fracture, “Kopecky told us. “Right now, we just don’t know”. Ballock left the stadium following the game with the ankle wrapped tightly and on crutches. The extent of the injury and if Ballock will be available next Friday when Sante Fe Trail comes to Eudora will be determined later.

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