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      Black Saturday

      ST. LOUIS --- Portions of I-70 turned into a football caravan Saturday morning. It was a fun-filled venture of Blue and Gold and Green and White, a 100-mile traveling rainbow from the Jefferson City area to the Edward Jones Dome.State championship football.The drive home probably wasn't as much fun.Webb City 49, Helias 14.Lamar 69, Blair Oaks 41, a tidy state-record total of 110 points.The Helias Crusaders were knocked out early; the Blair Oaks Falcons were knocked out late.The rainbow colors turned to Black Saturday.In the Class 4 championship, the Webb City Cardinals did what they do.Win."Their statistics, all their titles ... all that stuff shows," Helias coach Phil Pitts said. "We play the best teams in the state of Missouri and they're second to none."That's as good of a football team as we've played."The Crusaders (10-5) ran into a buzzsaw, but they're certainly not the first team to be reduced to dust by the Cardinals.Webb City (15-0) is now the three-time defending state champion, has won 45 straight overall and 16 straight in the playoffs --- not to mention a 90-game winning streak in the regular season.This was Webb City's state record 11th championship. But then, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised the Cardinals feel so at home in St. Louis. "We're humbled by it, more than anything," Webb City coach John Roderique said of the success. "With a great work ethic and a great attitude, anything's possible."We've got a a lot of young guys growing up in Webb City who want a chance to do this."To translate: This is now easily the state's best program, which starts with kids who are just out of diapers. The Cardinals are doing what the Jefferson City Jays did to good teams for four decades --- punish them. They're just better than everyone else.In the first half, most of the biggest cheers from Helias fans were for Webb City penalties. The Cardinals scored touchdowns on their first five possessions, led 21-0 after one quarter --- they scored on consecutive offensive plays in the first --- 35-7 at the half and 42-7 after three.Wyatt Porter had touchdown passes of 3 yards to Anthony Woodruff and 10 yards to Hale Hentges for Helias, which received 89 yards rushing from Garrett Buschjost."When you're playing an opponent the quality of Webb City," Pitts said, "you need to get off to a fast start. Obviously, we didn't have that."More from Pitts to come.We now shift gears --- if there's actually a gear high enough for this --- to the Blair Oaks-Lamar Class 2 title bout.This was a basketball score, not football. This had more big plays than Broadway.Lamar's offensive line dwarfed the Blair Oaks' defensive front --- it looked like a small college team playing a small high school team.And behind them worked two quarterbacks --- ON EVERY PLAY --- waiting in the shotgun with their hands out to take the snap.The Tigers rushed for 523 yards."I've never seen anything quite like it," Blair Oaks coach Brad Drehle said. "But their kids up front are so big, that's what made it so difficult."The Tigers (13-2) had been stupid good in their previous five games, outscoring their playoff opponents by an average of 65-11. At halftime of this one, however, Lamar only had a 27-20 lead."We had some adversity in the first half that we hadn't faced in quite a while," Lamar coach Scott Bailey said.The Falcons (13-2) carried a 34-33 lead into the fourth quarter."That's the first time in a long time," Drehle said, "they've been in a ball game."But the final quarter was something else, a game in itself. It was a nightmare in itself, if you were wearing Green.The Tigers exploded for 36 points in a 6 1/2 minute span --- including two interceptions returned for touchdowns by Cedric Gartman --- to pull away for the blowout win.The game fell apart faster than a teenage girl after a bad date."Frustration sets in a little bit and you start pressing," Drehle said. "And it allowed them to change their defensive game plan."Daniel Castillo threw for 301 yards and three touchdowns --- two to Ashton Maasen, one to Derek Otto for the Falconss. Otto also ran for 116 yards and two scores, while Eli Roberts rushed for a touchdown."The ups and downs ... it was a tremendous game," Drehle said. To be sure, these were rough ends to grand seasons. But you must tip your hats --- and helmets --- to Webb City and Lamar. For on this day, they were the better teams.But Helias and Blair Oaks both produced wonderful journeys and some great memories, and they have second-place trophies to prove it.It's just tough to say good-bye.Drehle: "You watch these young me grow together, watch them compete, starting with the youth program in fourth grade. You get attached to them and you spend as much time with them as you do your own family."When it's over, that relationship changes forever. You still love them forever and for what they've done, but it changes. And that's difficult to deal with."Pitts: "I just told them I love them and I meant it. Too many times as coaches, we take for granted what these kids do for us. They've sacrificed for me, they've sacrificed for the program and they've sacrificed for the community."I'll never forget them; it's a phenomenal group of kids."Indeed. They just didn't find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.