The start of the high school football season last week also dropped the green flag for the Neosho Youth Football League season as hundreds of young gridiron warriors strapped on Neosho's black and gold, many for the first time ever.
When the dust settled on Saturday, the young Wildcat teams went 3-4, with two losses coming by eight points or less.
Neosho Gold vs. Carthage Blue
At Carthage, Mo.
Carthage Blue 30, Neosho 0
Carthage scored early, and often, in the third grade game and never looked back. Neosho's Carter Baslee led the team with 16 yards rushing on three carries, while Brock Franklin ran for two yards on six rushes and Kael Smith had a yard on six tries. Baslee had one return for 15 yards, while Devon Stirewalt had a return for seven yards and Collyn Anderson had one for a yard.
Baslee also paced the defense with seven solo tackles, while Anderson, Brandon Cargile and Smith had three apiece. Colton Burr, and Dakota Kivett had two tackles each. Jacob Gravener, Andrew Isbell, Cal Kivett, Cody Rice and Stirewalt had a tackle apiece.
Carthage Blue 14, Neosho Gold 6
In one of the program's close losses on the day, Neosho was edged by the Tigers despite a big day from Trent Neece, who carried the ball 18 times for 88 yards and a touchdown. Neece averaged 4.9 yards per carry and had a long run of 27 yards. He also led the team in receiving yards with five, and tackles with five.
Evan Haskins carried twice for two yards, while Tristen Mason had five totes for 12 yards. Noah Reed caught two passes for one yard.
Kolby Hood followed Neece with three tackles on defense, while Tristen Mason, Nate Copeland, Reed and Haskins had two stops each. Adam Chambers and Harrison Slinkard had a tackle apiece. Neece and Kane Ely each recovered a fumble.
Neosho Gold 26, Carthage Blue 6
The fifth graders took to the road and made short work of the Tigers behind a steady offensive attack. The Wildcats gashed Carthage's defense for nine rushes of more than 10 yards, including runs of 13, 20, 27, 12, 16 and 30 from Cayden Auch and 19, 20 and 35 from Domenick Kirkwood. Auch, who scored on a pair of two-point conversions, led the team with 130 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries, while Kirkwood amassed 81 yards and two TDs on five carries.
Dalton Brodie had two carries for two yards, while Brandt Gonzales ran twice for a yard. Kirkwood also added 10 yards on a kick return.
Auch paced the defense with five tackles, while Camden Lazure and Landon Austin had four stops. Gavin Linny, Landon Kivett, Brodie, Kaden Decker and Cooper Beaver each had three tackles. Kirkwood and Dylan Adams had two solo stops.
Page 2 of 3 - Sixth grade
Neosho Gold 20, Carthage Blue 12
The Wildcats recorded their second win of the day as the sixth grade slipped by the Tigers in a hard-fought contest.
Leading Neosho's balanced attack was Gage Kelley, who rushed for 68 yards on 11 carries with a touchdown and two-point conversion. Hunter Mason added 27 yards rushing and a touchdown, while Hunter Box ran for 19 yards and Zane Persinger 17.
Kelley also tossed a touchdown pass to Dylan Collins, who finished with 37 yards on three receptions. Persinger, meanwhile, had one catch for four yards. Kelley led the team with 18 return yards and Brady Franklin followed with four.
Box led the defense with seven tackles, while Kelley and Chase Capps both finished with four stops. Mason had three tackles, while Franklin, Matt Houk, Levi Ketchum and Jace Parmely had two. Nakota Bach, Dylan Collins and Persinger had one tackle each.
Neosho Black vs. Carthage White
At Bob Anderson Stadium
Carthage White 22, Neosho 6
A strong offensive showing by the Tigers was enough to sink the Wildcats in third grade action, despite a big day from Wildcats tailback Jared Siler. Despite carrying the ball the fewest times, Siler out-gained his teammates with 90 yards on five carries, including a big 62-yard touchdown run on his second attempt of the day for Neosho's only score as he finished with an average of 18 yards per carry.
Meanwhile, Neosho's Jeremiah Cobb carried seven times for 20 yards. Hayden Murphy rushed eight times for 15 yards. Bryce Willis ran 12 times for 16 yards.
Cobb had a huge day for the defense with six solo tackles, while Michael Day and Murphy had three apiece. Kameron Dunaway also had a nice day with two tackles and two fumble recoveries. Zachary Goff also had two stops and Mason Trepagnier finished with one.
Carthage White 16, Neosho Black 14
In the closest outcome of the day, Neosho's fourth graders suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Tigers in a nail-biter.
The defensive struggle saw 12 Wildcats record at least one tackle in the game. Seth Green and Marcus Duncan led the team with five solo tackles apiece, while Nick Harris had four and Fisher Stephens added three. Hayden Crane, Zane Boyer, Talon Mitchell, Elijah Mojica, Logan Whetzell, Lane Osborn and Landon McCracken had two tackles each and Colin Ortiz finished with one.
Whetzell, meanwhile, had a huge day offensively, rushing for 123 yards on 16 carries (7.7 average) and a touchdown. Crane ran five times for 29 yards and a touchdown. Mojica carried twice for seven yards and had one return for three yards.
Carthage White 34, Neosho Black 6
Page 3 of 3 - There was no shortage of offense from Carthage's fifth graders on Saturday at Bob Anderson Stadium as the Tigers scored early and often.
The Wildcats' lone score came early as Racey Shandley hit pay dirt on a 20 yard run and finished the game with five carries for 16 yards. Sam Sullivan led the Wildcats' offense with 33 yards on eight carries, while Jeremiah Larson had four yards on six tries.
Isaac Harris had two returns for 33 yards, Eric Siler added three for 23 and Sam Sullivan had one for 16.
Larson topped Neosho's defense with six tackles, while Drayke Perry added five stops. Austin Manwiller and Sullivan had four tackles. Shandley, Wyatt Keplar and Siler had three tackles. Will Jennings and Isaac Harris had two stops each, with Harris adding an interception. Chandler Pittman, Maison Schachtner and Nathan Storms had a tackle apiece.
Neosho Black 26, Carthage White 0
To put it plain and simple, Neosho's sixth graders dominated Carthage in their season opener on Saturday. As good as the Wildcats were offensively, they were just as good, if not better, defensively in the route.
Sam Cook and Quincy Willis accounted for 148 of the Wildcats' 174 yards rushing. Cook finished with 75 yards rushing and two touchdowns, while Willis nearly matched him with 73 yards and scored on a two-point conversion. Kolton Sanders ran for 20 yards and two touchdowns, while Payton Morris added four yards on the ground and Gage Zrubek had two.
Willis connected with passes to Kaden Dickens for 24 yards and Carter Elder for three. Dickens also added two fumble recoveries on defense and finished with 2 1/2 tackles. Cook led the team with 6 1/2 tackles, while Morris added 4 1/2, Sanders four, Willis 2 1/2, Zrubek two, Mason Gammons 1 1/2, Levi Campbell 1 1/2, Elder 1 1/2, Nevin Price one and Keaton Sanders and Bryce Ipok had a half-sack apiece.
Neosho Gold entertains Carl Junction Red at Bob Anderson Stadium on Saturday, while Neosho Black is at Carl Junction White.