Bennett from the Bleachers: Down 22, Ladue storms back, rains on Statesmens’ parade

Bennett Durando
Sports Columnist

Bennett_Column Black & WhiteSenior quarterback Rob Thompson ducked out of a sack, stepped up in the pocket, pump faked and retreated back, then finally went down under the pressure of the Ladue defensive line… and student section.

The Statesmen football team was not able to hold up a 22-point second half lead in the Nov. 7 District championship game against the Ladue Rams, just as Thompson and the offensive line were not able to hold up long enough to get a throw off on the final play.

Several things should be noted about this disastrous second half that saw the Statesmen outscored 28-0 to erase a seemingly comfortable 28-6 margin.

Missed chances: Webster had its opportunities to put this game out of reach, especially on two occasions in the third quarter. After Ladue had scraped to within 15 on a 41-yard touchdown pass, Webster countered, driving within three yards of extending the lead back to its maximum of 22.

However, the first and goal at the three resulted in a turnover on downs after three incompletions and a sack. A touchdown would’ve had them up 34 or 35-13 with six-and-a-half minutes to go in the third.

The Statesmen got it back and drove into the red zone again though, and coming out of it was nothing but another critical zero that would come back to haunt them. On fourth and one at the 18-yard line, Webster ran its most questionable play of the night, a short lob pass along the left sideline that fell harmlessly incomplete. 42-13 late in the third? Sounds like a pretty safe lead.

Lack of Linebacker: A 28-13 lead at that point in the game is also typically pretty safe, but the Statesmen pass rushers were dropping like flies.

“Where do I start?” said assistant coach Scott Stallcup about what went wrong in the second half. “(Sophomore) Marcel Jones left with a concussion, and we had some other guys on defense that had to leave also…”

“That’s no excuse for the defense by any means. It’s just that we didn’t have all that much depth in that game,” said Stallcup. “By the end of the game, we were basically playing with our JV linebackers.”

It sure looked like it down the stretch. On Ladue’s eventual game-winning drive, a defensive holding turned a potential upcoming third and long into an automatic first down.

Then on first and 20 (after an offensive holding), Ladue’s quarterback/kicker/everything Superma—Jack Fox, a self-acclaimed unsuccessful runner at QB, charged untouched up the middle for 37 yards and the game-winning score with 36.4 seconds left. For good measure, Fox and the Rams added a two-point conversion, the last snap the defense would take on the year.

That is, until Turkey Day, when it could very well be the JV defense playing again anyway if Kirkwood can beat CBC in the Class 6 semifinal on Friday.

Outfoxed: Again, this guy is not a runner. He just does everything else. Though Jack Fox wasn’t stunning in the air on this night, he made his presence felt when it mattered most, leading the 72 yard winning drive in the final 2:19. He passed for 151 yards on the game.

It was his legs that mattered most in this comeback, in more ways than one. In the first half, after Ladue had fallen behind 14-0 early, Fox kept the Rams in it first with a 26-yard field goal, then an eye-widening 43-yard boot to pull within one possession.

Fox added a punt of an astronomical 71 yards. Only two punts in the NFL have surpassed that length this year. In pro football, the average punt distance is in the mid-to-high 40s.

Then came the crowning jewel of his performance, the 37-yard scramble. According to an stltoday game article, Fox remarked, “I’m in shock right now. I don’t run the ball. That’s the first time I’ve ever done that.”

One more chance?: Now Webster’s seniors, who despite their talent never made it to the Dome, have to hope they can get one final chance to play in the great Webster-Kirkwood Thanksgiving tradition. Their fate rests in CBC’s hands on Friday night.

Whether or not they get that chance, they’ll always be left wondering what could’ve been. This Statesmen team, ranked second in Missouri Class Five and defending a trip to the Final Four, went down with a bang to Ladue and its rowdy student section, which stormed the field in celebration as the final play was still concluding.

The fans, when permitted, are supposed to wait and rush the field after the teams have shaken hands and cleared off. Instead, senior quarterback Rob Thompson is lucky to still have his head after being trampled following the game-icing sack.

It came one play after Thompson just overshot senior receiver Cam Hilton in the back of the end zone from 39 yards deep. A delay of game set up the final sack to be from the 44 yards out.

On the Webster side, fans quietly cleared out while the marching band halfheartedly tried to play the fight song one last time.

It fizzled out within seconds… as did the promising season for the Statesmen.


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