The Tigers came into the game still searching for their first home victory of the 2009 season as they took on the Cardinals of Webb City. Webb City, on the other hand, hadn't lost a game at home or away in 23 games, dating back to Nov. 7, 2007, when they lost at Carthage by a slim, 23-22 margin.
Head coach John Roderique's Cardinals have had similar luck against the Tigers as they hadn't lost a game to Nevada since 1983. In last year's contest at Webb City, the Cardinals showed a dominant performance, earning a 59-14 victory.
The Cardinals are the defending Class 4 Missouri state champions and brought an 8-0 record and the top ranking in the Missouri Class 4 football polls in the 2009 season into the contest. The Tigers came into the night with an overall mark of 3-5 on the year and were hoping to bounce back from a 38-14 loss in week eight action at Carl Junction.
The intense rivalry between Nevada and Webb City has produced a number of very close games over the past several years, but much like in 2008, that was not the case Friday night as the Cardinals rolled their way to a 48-15 victory.
Running back Braxton Baker has been the major portion of the offense this season, averaging nearly 144 yards rushing per game this season and quickly proved to be a definite threat in Friday's contest as he took a 56-yard scamper into the end zone. After the PAT, that touchdown gave the Cardinals a quick 7-0 lead with 11:44 to go in the first quarter.
The Cardinals once again had a very short field to work with and needed just three plays to add to their lead on their second drive of the night as Patrick Drake threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Chris Hance with 8:26 to go in the first quarter to take a 13-0 lead.
The first turnover of the night on the Tigers' first play of their second drive gave the Cardinals a short field yet again and Baker made the Tigers pay. He needed just one play to take the ball 31 yards for his second touchdown of the game and 22nd of the year, opening up the Cardinals' lead to 20-0 with 8:14 to go in the first quarter.
Baker finished the only quarter he played in the contest with 102 yards on five carries and despite not touching the ball again after the first quarter, finished the game as the Cardinals' leading rusher.
"He (Baker) is the real deal, we knew that," Fleeman said. "He's a great player and he also seems like he's a great kid. He runs hard and he plays this game the way it's supposed to be played."
The Tigers continued to struggle on both sides of the ball and that allowed the Cardinals to quickly regain possession inside Nevada territory for the third time in the game. Drake and the rest of his offense wasted little time in cashing in once again, taking the ball 36 yards for the score on a drive that was capped off by a 17-yard pass to Hance to make it 27-0 with 4:42 to go in the first quarter.
For the fourth time in five drives, the Cardinals found themselves starting the drive inside Nevada territory and once again wasted little time taking advantage. This time, however, Drake led the offensive charge with 32 yards on two carries before Jeremiah Box scored the Cardinals' fifth touchdown of the first quarter on an 11-yard run with 2:23 to go.
That touchdown gave the Cardinals a more than comfortable lead as they found themselves with a 34-0 cushion with just under 2 1/2 minutes to go in the first period.
On just the second play of the second quarter, the Cardinals let sophomore Jamison Cady in on the running game and he came through in a big way, taking a 65-yard scamper right through the middle of the Tigers' defense to put Webb City up by a score of 41-0 with 11:06 to go in the half.
The Tigers were finally able to get a bit of a drive going near the midway point of the second quarter, but that was quickly stifled as the Webb City defense made a strong stand at their own 35. Throughout the first half, the Cardinals had just two drives that did not result in a score, ultimately allowing them to take control of the game early and they never looked back as they took a 41-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.
"They got out of the gates very well, they played very well early in the game. Unfortunately, we just couldn't get out of the gates early in the game," Fleeman said. "We felt like we didn't execute very well early in the game and they capitalized on it."
The Cardinals dominated on both sides of the ball in the opening half, running the ball for 266 yards while adding 55 more through the air. The Tigers, on the other hand, managed just 24 total yards of offense in the first half -- 18 through the air and just six on the ground.
The running clock looked as though it would slow the pace of the game substantially until the first play of the fourth quarter as Nevada quarterback Austin Baldwin was finally able to get his Tigers on the board for the first time on a 15-yard touchdown run to make it 41-7 with 11:53 to go in the game.
The Cardinals quickly began to simply empty their bench in the second half, but still needed just 5 minutes to answer as backup running back Slade Byford capped off yet another strong drive with a 26-yard touchdown run with 6:04 to go in the game.
Just 1 minute later, Baldwin added his second touchdown of the period on the longest play from scrimmage of the game for either team, taking a 78-yard run up the middle of the field. A faked extra-point kick ultimately allowed Baldwin to run the ball around the corner for a successful two-point conversion to bring the Tigers back within 33 at 48-15.
"I think everybody knows that Austin is a very capable athlete," Fleeman said. "He's capable of doing a lot of things through the air and on the ground."
That was the end of the offense for the game as the fourth quarter came to a close before either team had another chance to mount any kind of significant drive, giving the Cardinals a 48-15 victory.
The second half was much better all around for the Tigers as they actually outgained Webb City 163-87, as well as outscoring them 15-7. Neither team completed a pass in the second half, making all of the offense come on the ground and Baldwin was the only one of the three quarterbacks to see action in the half who attempted to throw at all.
With that loss, the Tigers fell to 3-6 overall and 0-2 in district competition on the year and will face their final opportunity to get into the win column at home next Thursday night as they host the Tigers of Carthage.