It all started… or ended, really… in that fateful District Championship game.
When that darned Jack Fox-led Ladue team pioneered its comeback to eliminate Webster football from State title contention in 2014, it marked the end of an era.
By the time the Pioneers from Kirkwood were rolling over the Statesmen a couple weeks later on Thanksgiving for the second straight year, it was clear a new Webster team was already settling in.
That team, in 2015, has something that Webster hasn’t seen in a long time: a losing record. Its 3-5 record is unprecedented, given its success in the not-so-distant past.
This has come a year after the Statesmen were top ranked in Class Five for the majority of the season, two years after they upset the defending champion Pioneers on the road en route to the Final Four, and three years after they lost 21-14 to those State champs in a very evenly matched, heartbreaking Round of 16 game.
I could go on, as far back as the teams that went to the Dome in 2009 and 2010, but you get the point: Webster just isn’t accustomed to losing like this.
Is that an overstatement? Honestly, it probably is. It’s not like Webster is 0-8, losing to bad teams and getting utterly annihilated by good ones. It’s not like the team is flailing desperately for one win, for one brief taste of victory in the midst of a pitiful season.
No, these Webster players and coaches know that enticing flavor too well, which is what makes this season all the more torturous. They’ve even tasted it at points this season, most notably on their last second 13-12 win at Hazelwood East, on sophomore quarterback John Doria’s 26-yard touchdown pass as time expired.
The Statesmen won again the next week, 19-13, and that alluring taste of victory was stronger than ever. The team was 2-1!
After winning those two consecutively though, the defense, which had allowed 12.5 points on average in those wins, could no longer hold the team up. The Statesmen lost four straight. Was the irresistible taste becoming unattainable? The succulent scent had teased them for the first three weeks of the season, only to cruelly deny them for the rest of the year. Winning seemed a delicacy Webster could simply no longer afford.
That is, until the last week of the regular season. Webster captured its first home win of the season on Senior Night, again with strong defensive support in a 27-7 triumph over McCluer. Most notably though, the offense was coming alive. It was the first time of the season Webster scored 20 points, and just the fourth time in eight games they scored double digits.
Doria, who after sharing a passing role with Jerry Yates had emerged as the starter, showed signs of maturity, passing for three touchdowns. Give him a year, and he’ll have complete stability brought back to the quarterback position. When on a third and nine late in the first quarter, Doria rolled out of the pocket to earn an extra several seconds before finding a receiver for 14 yards, it hit just how good he could end up being.
Webster scored a touchdown on that drive to up 14-0 when it converted a fourth down with a six yard touchdown run. The third and fourth down success had been absent for seven games, but the Webster offense figured something out against McCluer. It’ll need to take that into its district playoff game on Oct. 23, against…
How fitting an opportunity for this team, one which has been about as poor in terms of record as a Cliff Ice team has ever been: to earn ultimate redemption for a regular season, weak by Webster’s standards, by beating the team that struck down the Statesmen in devastating fashion a year ago when they were Class Five giants.
If the Statesmen don’t deliver, 3-6 might be the only thing remembered about this team. And 3-6 doesn’t have a very good taste.