Win gives head coach gift in first season at helm of Cardinals

Nov. 17—WEBB CITY, Mo. — The Cardinals moved into the Class 5 semifinals with a 49-35 win over Grain Valley on Friday night inside Cardinal Stadium on John Roderique Field.

That win gives Webb City head coach Ryan McFarland a gift in his first season at the helm of a storied program. What does reaching a state semifinal game say about McFarland?

"It just says we picked the right guy, right?" former head coach John Roderique said. "And we're very lucky to have him."

Earlier this week, McFarland admitted to some pressure to perform as the head coach of a team that he has been around and close to for a long time as a guy who once played in Webb City.

That pressure involves the expectations of fans in a football-loving town but it also has to do with the shoes he's filling from coaches that came before him.

Those names are Jerry Kill, Kurt Thompson and John Roderique — the latter being one of the most successful high school football coaches in the United States.

Roderique finished with a 315-35 overall record as a head coach, won 13 state championships and made it to 15. His winning percentage of 90% is the best in the state of Missouri and is second-best in the country. The 13 state titles are the most by any coach in MSHSAA history.

Roderique spoke on the sideline at halftime about some of that pressure being something he experienced as well.

"I think we all put pressure on ourselves," he said. "It's just part of it as coaches. That's why you work seven days a week during the season."

McFarland has spoken openly all season about not knowing exactly what he had with this group as the season began. His team fell to Nixa in Week 1 by one touchdown. That was a Class 6 team that just got done competing in a state quarterfinal game of its own.

The Cardinals' other loss came at Carthage in the regular season and they avenged that low-scoring defeat with a 42-7 win in the postseason. With a 71-20 win in the opening round of district play, Webb City was really dominating its opposition coming into Friday night.

Roderique has been impressed with what McFarland has done this season.

"I'm so proud of Ryan," Roderique said. "He's done such a great job here for this first year. Stuff doesn't happen by accident. You don't win a district championship by accident."

He would know, having won 23 district titles himself.