Austin DowningAustin Downing gets through the defensive line to gain yards in the Cardinals 16-15 victory of Louisburg (photo by photojournalist Julie Stewart)

Second game of the season, second nail biter in a row…..

The Eudora Cardinals squeaked through with a victory over the Lousiburg Wildcats 16-15 in the home opener at Eudora District Stadium Friday night.  While the offense did what they needed to do to get the job done, the defense looked sluggish for a second week in a row.

On the opening kickoff, Eudora’s J.T. Howell caught the ball on the Cardinal 1-yard-line and quickly made it up to the 20 before fumbling and Louisburg recovered. The Cards defense did have an impressive following series stopping Lousiburg on four successive downs and once again attempted to march down the field. This is when the defense seemed to bog down.

The Cardinals maintained a bend but don’t break style of play. Louisburg’s running game was running at will, gaining multiple yards on a run but could never break off a high yardage play. The Wildcats got on the board first when they finally broke through to the end zone on a series of  runs culminating with QB Austin Terry gaining the final yard to put Louisburg up 7-0 with 2:43 left in the opening quarter.

Eudora did battle back and with 10:24 left in the 2nd quarter, Andrew Ballock put Eudora on the board when he executed the quarterback sneak. The Cards went for two and Ballock rolled out and found Blake Jopp in the corner of the end zone to convert, putting the Cards up by a point.

Following halftime, the teams went back and forth. The defense seemed sluggish once again coming out of the locker room, but were still performing well enough to keep the Cats off the board. Louisburg’s strong running game did get going and with time running out in the 3rd quarter, Louisburg RB Alex Dunn got the lead back with a two yard run into the end zone. The Cats took a page from Eudora’s playbook and made the 2-point conversion on a pass from QB Austin Terry to RB Will Garza giving the cats a 15-7 lead.

Zhade WrayDefensive lineman Zhade Wray gets in the face of Louisburg QB Austin Terry nearly getting the safety late in the game (photo by photojournalist Julie Stewart)

But Eudora was determined to come back and win. With a little over 9:00 minutes left in the game, Eudora’s offense kept fighting hard and pulled to within one when QB Andrew Ballock scored on a 7-yard run. Eudora went for two once again and Ballock scored a running PAT to retake a one point lead.

Eudora looked to put the icing on the cake when they marched down field with 3:29 left in the game and made it all the way to the 2 yard line but Austin Downing took a hard hit at just the right angle to pop the ball loose giving Louisburg one last last bit of life.

Following the turnover, the Wildcats attempted to march down the field quickly and got to midfield when the Eudora defense stepped up once again.  Everyone in the stands and likely a few coaches on the sideline held their breath as a fourth down measurement proved that Eudora stopped the Wildcats with, at most, an inch to spare to pull out the win.

Eudora Head Coach Kevin Kopecky was pleased with what he saw following the game despite it going down to the last seconds once again.

“I was just talking to G.A. (Buie, Principal of Eudora High School) saying we need to keep people in the stands,” Kopecky joked referring to the last minute thrills for a second week in a row. “Louisburg has a good football team and you have to give them credit. They’re going to be a pretty good team at the end of the year.”

Both Kopecky and QB/DB Andrew Ballock talked about how losses of seniors from last year’s team have hurt so far this year on defense.

“We lost all three of our linebackers (to graduation) so the tough part is to fit new guys in,” Ballock said. “But we’re getting better.  This is only our second game. We’re young and we will continue to get better and better each week.”

Next Friday night, Eudora will travel east to take on 0-2 De Soto in their homecoming game. The De Soto Wildcats lost the opening game of the season to defending 4A champions Holton and lost a heart breaker 16-13 against Ottawa Friday night.

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