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Special teams prove special for Webb City

ST. LOUIS — Looking to pull off a special feat, it seems only fitting the Webb City Cardinals relied on their special teams to do so.

The Cardinals won their fourth straight Class 4 state football title thanks in large part two special-teams plays, dropping the Helias Crusaders 28-14 on Friday at the Edward Jones Dome.

The first big play for Webb City came on the Cardinals’ first possession of the second quarter, as they faced fourth-and-1 at their own 36-yard line.

The Cardinals lined up for a punt but instead snapped it to the up back, Trey Parra, who rumbled for a 31-yard gain. Four plays later, Webb City’s Kiante Hardin scored on a reverse that sent the Cardinals into the locker room with a 14-7 lead.

“You’ve got to have everything ready,” Webb City coach John Roderique said in the postgame interview room, before having to ask his players if they had run a fake punt this year, which they hadn’t.

Roderique added the play was improvised after he shared a look with Parra.

“He looks over at me, I look out there and was like, ‘I think we can run it.’ … I just signaled to him from the sideline that I think it’s there, let’s run it,” Roderique said. “I think you’ve got to give kids an opportunity to play. … You’ve got to take some chances once in a while and try to win games. I don’t know if it was a smart call, I guess it was a smart call because we got it, but if we wouldn’t have gotten it, it would have been a stupid call.”

Helias had the momentum until that point, but it shifted squarely to Webb City after that.

“They had a couple of very big plays on special teams,” Helias coach Phil Pitts said. “There are three phases to the football game and you have to win all three of them to beat a team the quality of Webb City. Ultimately, we didn’t make the play when we had to make it.”

The second huge play on special teams came immediately after the Crusaders tied the game at 14 with 9:00 left in the contest.

Hardin took the ensuing kickoff at the Webb City 15 and picked his way through the defense, eventually reaching the Helias 19.

“We haven’t had a ton of great kickoff returns over the year, but we actually had a new kickoff return we put in,” Roderique said. “I don’t know if we blocked it right, but I know that (Hardin) is pretty darn good and we got some guys running and things opened up.

“That was huge. That might have been the biggest play in the game.”

Four running plays later, Parra carried the ball into the end zone from 8 yards out to make it 21-14 and that effectively ended the game.

Pitts said he wasn’t surprised to see Hardin make a big play.

“Look through (Webb City’s) playoff run and he’s made a bunch of really big plays when they’ve needed it,” Pitts said. “He made one for them right there and obviously that was a big, big turning point in the ball game. … That kind of deflated us and we weren’t able to answer.”

Helias came up inches short on a fourth-down play near midfield on its ensuing possession and Webb City added an insurance score three plays later. It capped off the Cardinals’ four-peat and gave them their 12th state championship, joining titles in 1989, 1992, 1993, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2006, 2008 and 2010-12.

“In July and August, back when we started this thing, I couldn’t have imagined that we would be here,” Roderique said. “… It’s been a fantastic year and I’m really, really proud of our guys.”

Companion article:

Helias falls to Webb City 28-14 in Class 4 title game

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