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By a foot, Spartans state champs
Ball last-second field goal gives Webb first state title since 1996


MURFREESBORO — After sizing up kicker Steve Ball’s confidence, plus some gentle persuasion from an assistant coach, Webb skipper Dave Meske decided to try a potential state title-winning 44-yard field goal despite a steady wind blowing the wrong way.

“That was probably as far as we were going to kick it. I wasn’t for sure to kick it, but Clark Wormsley up in the [press]box, he said kick it,” Meske said after Ball’s 44-yarder cleared the posts with room to spare, giving the Spartans a 17-14 win against Evangelical Christian School and the Division II Class AA state crown Saturday, Nov. 18, at MTSU.

“Steve Ball is a great kicker ... he just made a great play,” Meske said. “I asked him if he could make it, and he said ‘yes.’ If he had been hesitant I wouldn’t have kicked it.”

Ball said his range was about 47 yards “because we were into a lot of wind. ... You can’t doubt yourself or you’ll mess up.”

Ending with a 9-3 record, Webb grabs its third state championship in school history in five state title game appearances. It’s Meske’s second state crown (1996). ECS ends 10-2, both losses to Webb.

The Spartans out-gained the Eagles of Memphis 267-249. All but 46 of Webb’s was rushing.

Senior quarterback Blake Beeler said that unlike the regular season Spartan blowout versus ECS (37-13 at Webb) greatly aided by rain and slush, “We had to guard two dimensions of their offense tonight ... we didn’t have to worry about them throwing in the rain.”

Beeler said that with “ten [ECS] men in the box,” the Spartans “stepped up” for three key pass receptions in the fourth-quarter.

One of those came with the Spartans down 14-7 early in the fourth quarter and facing third-and-11 at the Webb 22.

Derek Boyce’s fingertip catch over the middle gained 15 yards and led to the tying score. Beeler’s 15-yard strike to Bo Johnson put Webb at the ECS 18. Brandt Campbell’s 14-yard touchdown catch made it 14-14 with 7:21 left.

After an exchange of punts, ECS drove from its 37 to the Webb 34, but lost the ball on downs with 1:54 to play.

Johnson came up huge with runs of nine and 20 yards, then scampered for seven critical yards on third-and-10, getting Ball in range.

Johnson, a senior whose 36-yard TD run put the Spartans ahead 7-0 in the first quarter, said Webb became good at winning close games, adding the seniors “are all like brothers, that’s the thing about this team, we’re just so close and the chemistry’s so great. That’s what makes us win.”

Senior lineman A.J. Kirby-Jones, a Mr. Football Finalist among Division II-AA linemen, said “We had eleven seniors that really stepped up. We only had four returning starters. Everybody on the team, even the young guys, stepped up.”

Senior defensive back Zach Dickson said, “this is the absolute perfect way to end a career. We worked so hard all summer long.”

Meske added, “It’s a work ethic, number one these kids work extremely hard every day. They’re not selfish at all. And they all are close friends, and they all hang around with each other. They all support each other.

“We lost eight seniors last year on both sides of the ball, but I think last year’s seniors affected this year’s football team,” Meske added. “They were great leaders last year, they got us to a state championship. ... The seniors we had this year built on that. They learned from them. They were just unbelievable.”

Offensively, “The offensive line did a great job,” Meske said. “We used four runningbacks, and they all made a difference in this season [Johnson, Boyce, Tom Ergen and Chad Manning injured in mid-season and lost for the year]. One will run for a hundred yards one game, and one will run for a hundred the next game. They did a great job.

“We had a center and two guards come back from last year [Kirby-Jones, Matt Campbell and Ward Farmer]. We built on those three guys, and those three guys are exceptional.”

 

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