SWMO Game of the Week Preview: Webb City at Joplin
By Jordan Burton
This might be the Game of the Year is the Ozarks with Class 6 Joplin renewing its rivalry with Class 4 power Webb City. Keep in mind, Joplin has won nine of its last 11 games overall and the defending Class 4 state champs Webb City has won 16 straight. These two haven’t met since 1997 – a 33-7 WC win – and Joplin hasn’t beaten the Cardinals since 1990. That game was also in Joplin. The Twitter fingers have been fired up for months in this one with generation of males on each side weighing in. The Webb City-Joplin matchup has happened just three times (WC leads 2-1) but – back in the day – Webb was 4-1 against Memorial and 0-2 against Parkwood. Both sides have high-level talent and dreams of conference, district and state championships this fall. If you want to see this game in person, get there early. Camping out Thursday night might be the only way to guarantee a seat.
How Webb City wins – Dominate the ball
Time of possession last Friday didn’t really matter because Carl Junction couldn’t stop Webb City’s offense. On Friday, that may not be the case. Early turnovers kept WC’s defense on the field for extended periods of time and in short field situations. Although they were able to navigate it relatively unscathed, it’s not something they should make a habit of with an inexperienced defense. Winning the time of possession battle will not only allow Webb City to wear down Joplin defensively, but it’ll also keep an extremely explosive Joplin offense on the sideline. On Friday, the Eagles averaged 9.2 yards per play, with two of their six touchdowns coming on plays of 30 yards or more. That doesn’t count a 79-yard reception by Zach Westmoreland. For the most part, Willard did a solid job of eliminating big plays and they still gave up 41 points. Joplin may have the most explosive offense Webb City will see this season. Westmoreland (8 touches, 183 yards, TD) and senior James Moman are vertical threats and junior running back Isaiah Davis (158 yards, 3 TD) was a monster against Willard. Keeping them off the field is the most efficient way to keep them from scoring. Dominating the clock means that Webb City would be sustaining drives, which by default means they’ll be running the ball effectively. When Webb City does that, they’re extremely hard to beat. If they get 45-plus rushes, good luck. In 2016, Webb City was 1-3 when failing to run the ball at least 45 times.
How Joplin wins – Win the line of scrimmage
Easier said than done. Rarely will you see Webb City get beat upfront. In football, most games are won or lost in the trenches. The Cardinals ate up Carl Junction at the point of attack, rushing for 314 yards (6.4 yards per rush) and limiting CJ to just 119 yards (3.5 yards per rush). Webb also was able to put tremendous pressure on Joe Kennedy. Those things can’t happen if you want to beat Webb City, so Joplin’s line(s) have a major task ahead of them. The Eagles offensive line is among the biggest and most talented you’ll see. They return nearly intact from last season and average 260lbs, led by Division One prospect Tyler Smith. Smith is a 6-foot-5, 275lb monster that has great feet and uses his hands well. Joplin rushed for 271 yards on just 33 rushes as a team on Friday. Defensively, they held 240-pound Willard back Garrett Rice and the rest of the Tigers to 191 yards on 46 rushes. Senior defensive end Evan Bernot is about as big and physical as they come. Willard is typically one of the most effective running teams in the COC with an always massive front. Joplin controlling the line of scrimmage against the Tigers was impressive, but finding success on the ground against Webb City and stopping the historic split-back veer is a different kind of monster entirely. How Joplin responds to each challenge will dictate how close Friday’s game is.
Webb City X-Factor – Cade Beason
His start was a little shaky on Friday, throwing a couple of interceptions in the first half, then Beason settled in and he was untouchable. His understanding and execution of veer and option plays is next level. He rushed for three touchdowns on Friday and two of them he went seemingly untouched into the end zone. He ran it so efficiently that it didn’t matter how many defenders were in the box. Webb City’s offensive line will only get better with experience. Same with Beason from a passing standpoint. If he progresses to the point of being able to beat you with the occasional deep ball or throwing enough to make safeties think twice, watch out. If Beason continues to go Eric Crouch on people, the Cardinals will be difficult to stop. It’ll will be interesting to see how often Joplin can put Beason in obvious passing situations and how aggressive Webb City’s playcalling is when that happens.
Joplin X-Factor – James Moman
He sat out of Friday’s game, but looked terrific in Joplin’s jamboree. Why is Moman, a senior receiver, so important? Balance. The Eagles have a good offensive line, a good quarterback, a workhorse back and a go-to receiver. Attempting to take away everything is difficult, but possible. But, the emergence of Moman will make it nearly impossible to give extra attention to every Joplin threat. It’ll be impossible to give safety help to whichever side Westmoreland is lineup on, load the box and not leave Moman 1v1 with whoever is covering him. If and when those situations happen, Moman’s ability to make plays could become problematic. Moman vs. Webb City’s secondary will be the matchup to watch, especially if Joplin is able to establish the run early.