This is the esports version of a state final-four competition. In the Webb City High School esports room Saturday competing initially against 19 other schools and then the other three in the final four are (from left) Denver Grider, Daniel Sheets, James Bass and Ky Ross. They’re playing Apex Legends with their controllers are in their laps. – Dakota Newby photo

Webb City esports team, in its first year, wins fourth twice in state playoffs

Bob Foos

Coach Dakota Newby helps a group of players get set up for a practice game.

Esports has been a popular – and competitively successful – addition to extracurricular activities available to Webb City High School students.

E (electronic) sports is a growing competition for video gamers. And like other sports, there is an association that regulates esports and conducts the state competitions.

Webb City is catching up quick with the early members of the Missouri Scholastic Esports Federation, which was just established as a nonprofit organization in 2019 in Columbia.

According to the MOSEF website, the organization that started with nine educators has grown to more than 200 schools representing 4,000 students.

Dakota Newby, the first coach of Webb City’s esports program, is greatly responsible for the activity being adopted at WCHS. He proposed adding esports to the Webb City R-7 School Board even before there was a place for it. Board members, he recalls, were very receptive, and Superintendent Tony Rossetti was a proponent.

A primary reason to add esports is that it involves students who aren’t otherwise involved in any activities.

As MOSEF puts it:

As an organization of educators, we have witnessed the impact esports can have on students who don’t fit into their school community in more traditional ways. We have seen them connect with others, take on leadership roles, prioritize their grades and attendance, and take pride in being a part of their team. We aim to connect this momentum into a future for them through college or career.

During construction of the latest addition to the high school, Newby noticed there was a classroom with an undesignated purpose and received permission to have it designed for esports.

When school opened in the fall, there were the new computers and monitors necessary and “the fastest internet speed ever,” says Newby.

While a majority of students may have some experience in gaming, the number of team members is limited. And most can’t commit to practicing two hours after school Monday through Thursday.

On Friday afternoons, the esports center is open for all “who like to hang out and play but not compete,” Newby says. He considers himself an amateur gamer. “I like playing, but there’s a learning curve to competing.”

Competition level requires manual dexterity to hit the controller buttons with speed and the ability to see small details on the screen.

For the winter season, which just ended, Newby recruited 11 varsity players and six junior varsity players. He’s selecting a total of 13 for the upcoming spring season.

In step with the MOSEF mission, Newby says, for the most part, his players haven’t been involved in other extracurricular activities.

Fourth in the state

Competition is just among teams of three from each school. They represent three characters in the game with different skills working together.

Out of 60 schools, the top 20 qualify for state competition.

Webb City qualified for state in its first season in the fall. Pokeman was the game that season. On competition day, the Cardinals made it to the final four with Columbia Hickman, Francis Howell and Sikeston – and they won fourth place.

The winter state competition, playing Apex Legends, was held online Saturday, Feb. 3.

Webb City’s team of Daniel Sheets, Denver Grider, James Bass and Ky Ross (three plus an alternate) again made it to the final four and took fourth place. Others making it to the final four were De Smet Jesuit (St. Louis), Van Horn (Independence) and Waynesville. Joplin placed 12th.

Of the winter state team players, only Bass is returning for the spring season, which will feature two games, Valorant and Super Smash Bros.

Sheets, Grider and Ross are going out for track.

Junior varsity players practice in front of a large monitor.