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Friday night the Eudora Cardinals did battle on the gridiron against their neighbor and rival the De Soto Wildcats. Defense was the word of the night. Offense, not so much.
Both teams battled back and forth quarter by quarter, minute by minute. Neither the Cardinals or the Wildcats could put points on the board. Both teams showed an amazing defensive effort but 3 and out was the norm for series after series. In the first half, both teams combined managed a total of 3 first downs.
The Cardinals got close to the end zone early in the third quarter when the Cards got the ball back near the De Soto 20 yard line. They completed one first down and had the ball just in front of the 10 yard line but De Soto’s defense stepped up again and stymied Eudora. For an unknown reason, Head Coach Kevin Kopecky decided to go for the touchdown on fourth down as opposed to kicking a field goal from the 10, but the 4th down pass was incomplete. Incomplete passes and runs for little or no gain was a common theme of the night. Ballock only completed 6 of 17 passes. Most of the completions were short dump off passes for little gain.
It wasn’t until under 5:00 minutes left to go in the fourth quarter that the offense woke up long enough to make a critical play and it was good enough to give the Cardinal’s the only score of the night. Quarterback Andrew Ballock threw a short pass to Wide Receiver J.T. Howell that looked like it was going the same way most of the plays were in the game: nowhere. Suddenly, as the De Soto defense was about to make the tackle, Howell popped free and took off down the sideline from midfield all the way to the three-yard line. It was the only burst of offense from the team all night. On the following play, Ballock took the ball and ran around the right side and was able to just clear the ball over the pylon to give the Cardinals the lone touchdown of the game. With an extra point kick, the Cardinals took the lead and held on for the win.
“The offense just wasn’t there tonight,” Kopecky said. “Our defense played really well and kept us in the game all night.”
Through the entire game the Eudora offense looked sluggish and just could not put anything together. What has become a frequent if not almost guaranteed connection has been QB Ballock to his little brother WR Mitchell. Friday night, the two could not make a connection. Passes from Ballock were long or the receivers were just one step slower than usual.
“We have to start putting a full game together or we are going to get beat. That’s all there is to it,” Kopecky told us. “I want to give credit to the De Soto defense, but we were awful sluggish too. I think it’s back to the drawing board on offense.”
The one bright spot was Junior J.T. Howell who scampered out of tackles and ran towards the goal line late.
“Two out of three weeks he’s helped us on a big play. He’s a real tough little player and he’s a good kid,” Kopecky stated. “I’m glad he’s in our locker room.”
Next Friday, the 2-1 Paola Panthers travel to Eudora. Paola’s only loss of the season came at the hands of Baldwin City who many describe as the powerhouse of the Frontier League this year. Paola won big on Friday night against Spring Hill 42-12.