Earlier this year, MaxPreps, a database with a wealth of information on high school athletics, set out to rank the most “dominant” high school football programs in Missouri over the last 10 years. Rockhurst finished second. The only team to finish higher? Tonight’s opponent, the Webb City High School Cardinals.
It’s pretty hard to argue with their claim to that distinction. Over the past ten years, the Cardinals have lost just five times and won six state titles. Granted, they play two classes below the Hawklets, but Webb City has slowly been adding tougher teams to their schedule. They went 1-1 in a back-and-forth series with Arkansas powerhouse, Springdale Har-Ber, over the last two seasons, and beat Helias in the state championship last year. Rockhurst plays both Har-Ber and Helias later this year.
Still, the trip to Kansas City to play Rockhurst is a big deal for a team from a town of just under 11,000. The Hawklets hope to prove that Webb City still doesn’t quite belong.
Location: Rockhurst High School
Records: Rockhurst (1-0) vs. Webb City (1-0)
Last week: Rockhurst def. Columbia Rock Bridge 49-14; Webb City def. Carthage 21-0
State Ranking (according to maxpreps.com): Rockhurst- #8 Webb City- #4
Webb City’s “veer” rushing attack vs. Rockhurst’s defensive ends and outside linebackers
A week after seeing a pass-heavy spread offense in Columbia, the Hawklets defense faces another distinctive style in Webb City’s “veer” rushing attack, which features multiple tailbacks and different options on each play. Keeping Webb City’s backs from getting outside will be crucial for the Hawklet’s edge rushers, as most plays Webb City runs will “option” off of them.
If senior outside linebackers, Joe Giwa and Alec Heying, end up with a solid number of tackles, it will be a good sign for the Hawklets because it likely means they are keeping Webb City from getting into the Rockhurst secondary.
Although the Hawklets may not have ever seen an offense exactly like what the Cardinals run, Webb City’s style is similar enough to the option rushing attack run by Hutchison that coaches and players for the Hawklets should be well-equipped to at least slow it down.
Webb City’s Kiante Hardin vs. Rockhurst’s skill positions
Although the Cardinals rarely throw (they attempted just 10 passes in week one), they have an explosive weapon out wide in Kiante Hardin, who seems to be the team’s best athlete. Webb City may try to lull Rockhurst’s corners to sleep with the run game before aiming deep down the outside.
Hardin, who has Division One offers from Minnesota and Tulsa, also plays cornerback, and he will be tasked with trying to stop a Hawklets passing attack that showed quite a bit of big play ability last week. Senior quarterback TJ Green threw two touchdowns, each over 20 yards, going to senior receiver Lance Boehm, who had a breakout performance against Rock Bridge with 126 receiving yards. Needless to say, Hardin, and the rest of the Cardinals will keep a close eye on Boehm tonight.
Webb City’s special teams vs. Rockhurst’s special teams
Word is that many Webb City supporters loyally travel to see the Cardinals play, especially against high-ranked opponents. Add them to the strong crowd the Hawklets are sure to turn out for the home opener, and the atmosphere should be electric. This makes taking care of the “little things,” the things that take extra concentration, all the more important. Usually, that means that special teams play will be a factor.
The Hawklets had a solid game on special teams last week, making all seven PATs and recovering an early fumble in the punt game that led to a touchdown. If the Hawklets can be the team that remains mistake-free yet again, they will have a big advantage against Webb City.
The Hawklets have a unique opportunity to do something that a team from Missouri hasn’t done in the regular season in 11 years: beat Webb City.
Like last week, the Hawklets need to play without sucumbing to their opponent’s distinctive style of play. With the amount of rushing plays they attempt, Webb City has the capability to slow the game way down. However, if the Hawklets can get a score or two in their first few possessions, they may be able to push the Cardinals out of their comfort zone.
People who follow high school sports in Missouri have been waiting to see a matchup like this for years now. It’s the ultimate matchup between Class 6 and Class 4, between the “big city” and the “small town,” between the pro-style and the option. No matter what happens, this figures to be one of the most entertaining games of the season.