Webb City football coach John Roderique receives a Missouri Sports Hall of Fame plaque from Jerald Andrews, MSHOF president and executive director. 
(MISSOURI SPORTS HALL OF FAME PHOTO)

John Roderique enshrined in the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame

His 12 state championships are the most of any high school coach in Missouri history

The MISSOURI SPORTS HALL OF FAME inducted its 2021 class of inductees on Sunday, Jan. 31, at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds in Springfield. 

by Kary Booher
Missouri Sports Hall of Fame

In the summer of 1997, weeks before he stepped under the Friday night lights as head football coach of the Webb City Cardinals, John Roderique would jolt out of his sleep. That is, with his mind swirling about, well, everything.

“Those first few weeks, I’d wake up and think, ‘What did I do?” said Roderique, who had left behind a Golden Era of Pittsburg State University football – where he had been a seven-year assistant (six full-time) – in order to lead his high school alma mater. “I could have fallen flat on my face.”

Instead, he became the face of Webb City football, guiding the Cardinals to 12 state championships, which represents the most of any high school coach in state history. Call it a success story perfectly suited for the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, which is proud to induct Roderique with the Class of 2021.

Since 1997, Roderique owns a 298-28 record. The state championships, all in Class 4, cover 1997, 2000, 2001, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2019.

Overall, the Cardinals have advanced to the playoffs in 22 of Roderique’s 24 seasons, reached 19 state semifinals – including eight consecutive (2008-2015) – and finished as a state-runner-up in 2004 and 2015.

Notably, his teams won 21 consecutive district titles and dominated during a 92-game, regular-season win streak (2003-2013) for the Webb City Football Program (MSHOF 2015).

“When I became a (Pitt State) assistant in 1990, I didn’t think I wanted to be a high school teacher and coach,” said Roderique.

The next few years reinforced why. A two-time All-American linebacker for the Gorillas in the late 1980s, he was soon on the coaching staff on seven NCAA Division II playoff teams, including its 1991 national title and 1992 and 1995 national runners-up.

However, with two children and another on the way, Roderique headed to Webb City, with the enormity of it all – coaching his alma mater, where he had been a multi-sport athlete, including a 1985 All-State linebacker – hitting him hard that summer.

Yet that first season?

Roderique guided those Cardinals to a 14-0 record, the first of 10 undefeated seasons. In fact, his first two victories were notable because he was matched against Branson’s Steve Hancock (MSHOF 2009) and Pittsburg (Kan.) High School’s Larry Garman (255 wins in 34 years, three state titles).

However, Webb City missed the playoffs the next two years, leading Roderique to pursue would fuel the rest of his tenure: An emphasis on youth leagues and summer football camps – engines that increased participation numbers.

He was already emphasizing both, but ratcheted up the strategy, considering 49 freshmen had joined the Webb City program in 1994, with only 22 finishing out with the 1997 team.

Results began to show in 2000, when the Cardinals earned a 42-0 playoff win against Camdenton (MSHOF 2016), which scored a 42-7 win against Webb City the prior season.

“As youth numbers grew so did the success at the high school level,” Roderique said. “At one point, there were 72 players on one team in third grade.”

A number of other factors have fed into the success: Disciplined teams in every facet, with the ability to play smash-mouth football on both sides of the ball. The offense has gone to the air, too.

Notably, Roderique treats varsity players not like kids but like the young men they are about to become.

Said Roderique, “I remember Coach (Chuck) Broyles sitting on the couch at a recruiting visit and telling a player, ‘The decision you’re going to make will affect the next four years of your life … but what happens in those four years will have an impact on the next 40 years of your life.”

Many have influenced Roderique’s career: Coaches such as Mark McDonald, Broyles, Jerry Kill, Kurt Thompson (MSHOF 2019) as well as administrators Steve Gollhofer, Dr. Ron Lankford and Dr. Anthony Rossetti. Roderique also praises assistants, including Darrell Hicks and Mike Smith. USA Football, a development and certification non-profit, also has enhanced his career.

Additionally, the support of his wife, Heather, and their children – Hailey Derryberry, John and Tyson – has sweetened this wonderful journey.

His sons and nephews Scott Roderique, Brayden Drake and Pat Drake were all Cardinals quarterbacks.

“I may not have at the time, but I now see just how special it was,” Roderique said.

Roderique also thanks the community.

“It’s been an incredible place to coach,” Roderique said. “The parent support, community support and administrative support have been tremendous.”

MSHOF Class of 2021 – (FRONT) Chairman Kris Conley, Warrensburg coach Ron Clawson, Edwin Evers, Pat Colon, Edwin “Cookie” Rice, Carl Peterson accepting on behalf of the late Derrick Thomas, Bobby Allison, Mark Lamping, Dayton Moore, Emily Dryden accepting on behalf of the Missouri State Sugar Bears, Bryan Blitz, and Bill Caputo accepting on behalf of the Poplar Bluff High School Boys Golf Program. (BACK) Executive Vice President Marty Willadsen, Tom Mast, Jim Whytlaw, Jim Middleton, Alex Hall, Paul Evans, Dennis Heim, Dan Boever, John Roderique, Jeff Montgomery and Rich Montgomery representing the Mizzou Football Chain Crew, and President and Executive Director Jerald Andrews.

MISSOURI SPORTS HALL OF FAME PHOTO

Mizzou Chain Gang, including Webb City’s Jeff Montgomery, inducted with the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2021

by Kary Booher
Missouri Sports Hall of Fame

Back in 1957, at the start of the fall semester at the University of Missouri, the student newspaper published a brief in which the athletic department sought help for football games.

Claude Menefee still remembers it.

“A couple of us went down to Sparky Stalcup’s office,” Menefee said of Mizzou’s then-Athletic Director (MSHOF 1979). “They were looking for somebody to run the chains, and he gave us a shot.”

That so-called shot turned into decades thanks to a group of alums from across the state, and their dedication and longevity are why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame is proud to induct the Mizzou Football Chain Crew with the Class of 2021.

The current game-day crew includes 10 workers for each home game as they work the sidelines.

Notably, they have consisted of the sons, grandsons and other relatives of those of earlier eras. Even better, they all work as unpaid volunteers on Saturdays.

Menefee, a Fulton High School graduate, was on the Chain Crew for 30 years with Bob Ferree, an original 1957 member who passed away in 1985. Ferree’s son, Rob, has been aboard since then.

Blue Springs’ Rich Montgomery was a member for 50 years before hanging up his gameday bib in 2018. His sons, Jeff (MSHOF Elite 11 2019) and Mark, have been on the crew since the 1980s and 1990s.

In addition to the names already mentioned, other workers over the years include: Dale Shepherd; Mike and Ryan Alagna; Bill Barnard; Mike Boothe; Don and Brad Clements; Ernie Conner; Mike Happ; Adam and Clayton Hoover; Brandon Jackley; Tim Keeble; Dave Langford; Jim Kramer; Jim Manion; Mike McLain; Ken Quest, and Tony Spicci.

The Chain Crew’s roles consist of the East and West Sidelines, the Down Marker, the Chains, The Clip, Down & Distance, Yards to Gain Flag, Auxiliary Down Marker, Auxiliary Yard to Gain Flag and the Roving Penalty Scribe.

Most fans are likely familiar with the chains and down marker, but NCAA Division I football has become much more sophisticated over the years.

The purpose of the Clip is to ensure that the original line of scrimmage is not lost due to the movement or relocation of the chains and as an aid when a first down measurement is required.

Down & Distance holds a clipboard and records down, distance and the yard line of every play on the field. Officials like to review this when a play is being reviewed via instant replay or at times after a penalty has been called.The Auxiliary Yard to Gain is the one marker that is 10 yards from the line of scrimmage and acts as a yard to gain opposite the chains.

The Yard to Gain Flag helps spot and move the target on the ground for the yard to gain.

The Roving Penalty Scribe records all penalties for the Southeastern Conference Officiating Crew, noting which official threw the flag, which team committed the penalty, the player’s number, the quarter and time on the clock, down and distance and if the team refused or accepted the penalty. Officials, the SEC and both team receive a copy after the game for review and teaching/coaching purposes.

The general public probably remembers the crew from the “Fifth Down” game in 1990.

But that situation doesn’t tell the Chain Crew’s overall story fairly. Its members have worked in adverse conditions, acted professionally (meaning they cannot cheer) and in 2020 collaborated with the SEC pandemic-related protocols.

The Chain Crew has influenced the SEC.

“Some of what we did, like keeping a record of down and ball placement was so helpful to them it became a part of what all SEC chain crews had to do,” Don Clements said. “We have heard many times over we were the best crew in the SEC and that is a reflection of Rich and Jeff Montgomery’s dedication and organization. They have truly taken chain crews to the next level.”

They’ve had other memories.

Shepherd, a member since 1973, remembers a Mizzou-Kansas game in Kansas City when he told someone he hadn’t been knocked down in 30 years.

“You can guess what happened,” he said of being blindsided by a KU player. “That hurt!”

Said Mike Alagna, “One of my favorite memories was when MU beat Nebraska, who was ranked No. 10 in 2003. The fans rushed the field, tore down the goalposts.”

Overall, when fans wonder which team is going to show up on Saturday, you can count on the Mizzou Football Chain Crew.

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