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Following last weeks win, Head Coach Kevin Kopecky said that the Cardinals have to start putting a full game together or we are going to get beat. Fast forward to this Friday night and his words turned prophetic.
The Cardinals came out with a defense that could not stop the run and ended up losing their first game of the season to the Paola Panthers 28-14.
Paola took the opening kickoff of the game and efficiently moved the length of the field and scored on the opening drive putting the Cards down 7-0 six minutes into the game. Paola plays a smash mouth, run it up the middle type offense and Eudora could not stop Paola senior Running Back ExZavier Miller. Miller had 100 yards in rushing by half time and the Cardinals had no answer on how to stop him.
With just under 9 minutes left in the half, the Paola defense stymied the Cardinal offense at their own 16 yard line and got the ball back on downs. On the first play after the turnover, Running Back Corey Stallbaumer took the ball and ran 76 yards down to the Cardinal 8. Miller than found the end zone on an 8 yard run to give the Panthers a 14-0 lead over the Cardinals.
Eudora High would not give up though. After back and forth series by each team, Eudora has the ball deep in Paola territory when an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty set the Cardinals back to the 20 yard line. After three unsuccessful attempts, Eudora had a 4th and Goal from the 20 and the Cards went for it. QB Andrew Ballock hit sophomore Grant Elston with pass at the 5-yard lineand Elston took it in for the score. Eudora closed the gap but was down by 7 going into the halftime locker room.
During the first half the defense could not stop the quick Paola running game and Paola would get five to seven yards on most runs. Pass blocking was also lacking in the game as well as Paola QB Andrew Henn would throw short passes to help keep the Eudora defense guessing. While the Eudora offense did improve over last weeks performance in De Soto, they could not muster any passing game and the runs were usually short. Completing the trifecta, turnovers and penalties hurt the Cards.
A key injury occurred late in the first half when Senior Mason Tomlinson took a hard hit. During the end of the first half and into the locker room at half time, it was reported that Tomlinson showed symptoms of a concussion. Tomlinson sat out the remainder of the game and later was taken to Lawrence Memorial Hospital to be checked out. There was no word on how tests at the hospital came out. This was not the only player that ended up at LMH as a result of the contest. More on that in a moment.
Coming out of the locker room for the 2nd half, the stadium announcer said “here come your second half Cardinals”. Many in the stands hoped that the second half Cardinals found some greatly improved walk-ons during halftime and were better than the the first half version.
Eudora had gone to the passing game trying to coming from behind, but the Paola defense would just not let much go through the air. Ballock would connect with his brother Mitchell at times, but the passing game was just not there again this week. Paola made it to the end zone once again when Henn completed an 18-yard pass to put the Panthers up 21-7.
All through the 3rd quarter Ballock was scrambling to get yards for the team as his receivers were covered well by Paola. Late in the 3rd, Ballock finally hit pay dirt when he scrambled 12 yards to reach the goal line and put Eudora within one touchdown of tying the game.
The nail in the coffin came with 7:34 left in the game when Ballock threw a pass that Paola intercepted and ran back 25 yards for the pick six. With the extra point Paola went on to 28-14 win over the Cardinals.
“We had more turnovers than they did and on defense we had a hard time against their run game,” Kopecky said following the loss. “We knew going in that they were going to run it right as us and we had trouble stopping them.”
While Kopecky, disappointed in the loss, says that there is a lesson to be learned from the outcome.
“We’re still not there yet, we got a lot of work to do,” Kopecky said. “While you never want a loss, it wakes you up and let’s you know we need to get going.”
Near the end of the game, WR Mitchell Ballock took a hard hit and was taken off to the side lines. Ballock kept bending over on the side lines like he had the wind knocked out of him, but following the game was complaining of chest pains. EMS crews were called to the scene and Ballock was also taken by ambulance to LMH along with Tomlinson. According to sources connected with the team, Ballock’s test at the hospital came out negative. Ballock was treated and released from LMH Friday night. There was no word if Tomlinson was released or remained in the hospital for observation.
There is no official word from the coaching staff if Ballock or Tomlinson will be playing this coming week when Eudora celebrates Homecoming with a game against 1-3 Spring Hill at Eudora District Stadium on Friday.