Your online home for Joplin area sports coverage.

FOOTBALL: Webb City knocks off Carl Junction in home opener

Jason Peake

WEBB CITY, Mo. — Ryan McFarland has been on the sidelines of countless Webb City home football games over the years, first as a player and then as an assistant coach.

But Friday night’s contest inside Cardinal Stadium was a new experience — it was McFarland’s home debut as the storied program’s head football coach. 

In the first home game since 1996 without John Roderique leading the team, Webb City earned a hard-fought 47-28 win over Carl Junction in Week 2 of the 2023 prep football season.

Ryan McFarland

McFarland noted it was a special moment to lead the Cardinals down the hill onto what is now John Roderique Field.

“It was a surreal feeling,” said McFarland, who played football at Webb City before assisting Roderique for several years on the sidelines. “Coach Roderique and I talked several times today and I think we were both kind of lost because we’re in different roles. This is a great community with great players. To lead the team down the hill tonight was a blessing for sure.”

McFarland was handed the game ball after recording his first head coaching victory at Webb City.

“The most special part of getting win No. 1 is it was able to happen here,” McFarland said. “We would have loved to win last week, but to be able to have my first game on John Roderique Field and be able to get the win was great. Our kids played well, so it was a special night.” 

After coming up short at Nixa in Week 1, Webb City never trailed in Friday’s matchup with the Bulldogs.

However, the Cardinals were clinging to a slim 21-14 halftime advantage before outscoring the Bulldogs 26-14 in the second half.

Simply put, the Bulldogs made the Cardinals earn the win.

“We were kind of frustrated at halftime because we only had three possessions,” McFarland said. “We only ran 11 plays and didn’t get the chance to get into a groove in the first half. Offensively, we really wanted to open up the playbook tonight. We made some adjustments in the second half. We got on a roll there, and I feel really good about it.” 

Webb City football coach Ryan McFarland is pictured during Friday’s home opener against Carl Junction. McFarland earned win No. 1 as Webb City’s head coach, as the Cardinals beat the Bulldogs 47-28. Photo by Israel Perez.


Despite the loss, Carl Junction coach Todd Hafner noted he was pleased with his team’s effort. 

“I couldn’t be more proud of our kids,” Hafner said. “Our kids played their guts out. We got better from Week 1 to Week 2. That’s all we ask. We asked the kids to give us everything they had tonight, and I don’t think they could have given us anymore.

“Our kids bought in during this last week of practice,” he added. “They understand now what we’re trying to get out of them. The scoreboard isn’t what we wanted, but our kids got better and I think they trust what we’re telling them.”

Of course, Hafner is back leading the Bulldogs for the second time in his coaching career.

“It’s been fantastic,” Hafner said of his return to CJ. “I can’t really put into words how fun it is right now to coach these kids. The community and school are awesome. The administration has been fantastic. These kids have bought in… I can’t be any happier.”

Webb City’s Gabe Johnson picks up a big gain on the ground against Carl Junction. Photo by Israel Perez.


Webb City’s Brody Eggleston picked off a pass on the third play of the night, giving Webb City great field position on the 37. Four plays later, sophomore Gabe Johnson took a reverse and ran 20-yards to the end zone with 10 minutes left in the first quarter. 

Marching 74 yards on 14 plays, the Bulldogs tied it up with 2:08 left in the opening frame when senior QB Dexter Merrell connected with junior wide receiver Jaxton Wobken for a 9-yard touchdown strike.  

The game wasn’t deadlocked long, as the speedy Johnson took the ensuing kickoff and sprinted 94 yards to the house to give the hosts a 14-7 lead.

A 2-yard touchdown plunge by Carl Junction senior running back Johnny Starks, along with the PAT kick by Gavin Cowger, made it 14-14 with 3:40 remaining in the first half. A 34-yard pass from Merrell to junior Ryder Pyles set up the game-tying score.

Webb City senior quarterback Braden McKee charged into the end zone from 3 yards out with 43 seconds left in the first half, and Alex Dunne’s PAT kick gave the Cardinals a 21-14 cushion at the break.

The Cardinals outscored the Bulldogs 13-7 in both the third and fourth quarters for the final margin.

Carl Junction’s Johnny Starks takes a handoff from Dexter Merrell during Friday’s game at Webb City.

Senior running back Omari Jackson ripped off a 42-yard touchdown run early in the second half, but Carl Junction responded when Merrell scored on a 3-yard QB keeper.

The Cardinals separated with two unanswered touchdowns—a 49-yard run by Galardo and a 37-yard pass from McKee to junior Drew Vonder Haar that made it 40-21.

The two teams traded scores late in the fourth quarter, as Merrell connected with Wobken on a 7-yard strike before Webb City’s Johnson completed a 72-yard TD pass to junior Joseph DeGraffenreid in what was a final exclamation point on the win.



The total offense was nearly identical in this one, as Carl Junction recorded 349 yards (177 rushing and 172 passing), while Webb City had 346 yards (186 rushing and 160 passing). 

The Bulldogs, who had 18 first downs to Webb City’s 12, ran 73 offensive plays to the Cardinals’ 32. Carl Junction’s time of possession was 34:28 to Webb City’s 13:32. 

“We played better up front this week,” Hafner said. “Last week’s game really helped us prepare our kids for what we were looking for.”

Merrell completed 13 of 23 passes for 172 yards and also ran for 80 yards on 23 carries. Starks finished with 87 rushing yards on 17 carries. Starks was also credited with 10 tackles.

Webb City’s Galardo ran for 94 yards on just eight carries, while Jackson added 48 yards and Johnson had 38.

Johnson completed both of his pass attempts for 82 yards, while McKee was 4 for 7 passing for 78 yards.

Senior linebacker Christian Brock led Webb City’s defense with 10 tackles, while Eggleston and senior linebacker Jordan Howard had nine tackles apiece and senior defensive back Conner Gayman had eight.

McFarland noted his team still has work to do.

“I know our defense got frustrated because CJ was able to hang on to the ball and get first downs,” McFarland said. “They did to us what we wanted to do to Nixa last week…they kept our offense off the field. We’ll watch the film and I’m sure we’ll see some areas we need to get fixed. And I’m sure we’ll get those things fixed moving forward.”



Carl Junction (0-2) hosts Neosho (0-2) next Friday at Bulldog Stadium. 

Webb City (1-1) travels to Republic (2-0) in Week 3. Of course, the Tigers ended Webb City’s 2022 season in the district semifinals. 

“They beat us for the first time in school history to end our season last year,” McFarland said. “They’re proving they’re one of the best teams in the conference. We should be fired up to get work on Monday. I’m excited. It should be a good test for us and it will show us where we’re at as a team.”

Webb City’s Breckin Galardo attempts to elude Carl Junction’s Jaxton Wobken.



Carl Junction  7   7     7    7—28

Webb City     14   7   13    13—47


WC: Gabe Johnson 20 run (Alex Dunne kick)

CJ: Jaxton Wobken 9 pass from Dexter Merrell (Gavin Cowger kick)

WC: Johnson 94 kick return (Dunne kick)

CJ: Johnny Starks 2 run (Cowger kick)

WC: Braden McKee 3 run (Dunne kick)

WC: Omari Jackson 42 run (Dunne kick)

CJ: Merrell 3 run (Cowger kick)

WC: Galardo 49 run (Kick failed)

WC: Drew Vonder Haar 37 pass from McKee (Kick failed)

CJ: Wobken 7 pass from Merrell (Cowger kick)

WC: Joseph DeGraffenreid 72 pass from Gabe Johnson (Dunne kick)


Webb City’s Brett Korth attempts to tackle Carl Junction QB Dexter Merrell on Friday night. All photos by Israel Perez.


Carl Junction’s Ryder Pyles looks to elude the Webb City defense during Friday’s game at Webb City High School.


Webb City’s Christian Brock tackles Carl Junction’s Marcus Lopez-Durman on Friday night.


FULL STATS: Webb City HS (


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on linkedin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Table of Contents

On Key

Related Posts