The Neosho Wildcats would just assume Nixa junior running back was actually Nixa senior running back Alec Murphy — as in, they’d like to never see him again.
When the Wildcats see Murphy again they hope to have developed the anecdote to slow him, because he ran wild on Friday in Nixa’s 33-7 victory at Bob Anderson Stadium.
A 6-foot-1, 215 pound freight train, the swift afoot Murphy broke touchdown runs of 39, 49 and 58 yards while compiling 266 yards rushing on 22 carries with three touchdowns. On his first score, a 49-yarder, he appeared to be stopped twice, but he powered his way through three tackles and then outran a handful of speedy Wildcat defenders to the end zone.
Take away Murphy’s big runs and the Neosho defense otherwise had a solid day against a powerful Nixa offense that nearly defeated Webb City in Week 5.
Following a bad snap on a punt attempt, Nixa (5-1) began its first drive of the game at Neosho’s 7-yard line. However, the Wildcats (0-6) stuffed them on three downs and forced a 19-yard field goal by sophomore Logan Tyler to make it 3-0. The score remained that way until Murphy found the end zone on the 49-yarder to make it 9-0 when the extra point was blocked with 36 seconds left in the first quarter.
After Murphy scored again on a 39-yard scamper with 9:17 left in the second quarter to make it 16-0, Neosho’s defense buckled down on the next possession. After Nixa took over at the Wildcat 16 following a blocked punt, the Eagles were forced to settle for a 25-yard field goal by Tyler to make it 19-0. The Eagles would later add one more score before the half when Mason Tyndall got behind Neosho’s defense and hauled in a 26-yard pass from Tyler with 31 seconds to go in the second.
“They’re a really good football team, there’s no doubt,” Wildcats coach Dustin Baldwin said. “They’re physical up front, a really good run-stopping defense and we knew it was going to be difficult to move the ball. But, you know, overall I was really proud of the defense. They gave up four or five big plays, and the other 45 plays they were really good.
“Now, the difference between being awesome and being just average is those five plays,” he continued. “You’re not going to be perfect, but you sure can strive to attain it.”
While the ultimate measurement of success in sports is often gauged in the win-loss column, there are, perhaps, small victories even in the face of defeat. The 26-0 score, for instance, and the fact that the Wildcats were still very much in the game, was a stark contrast to last year’s 40-0 halftime score — one in which the Eagles chose to kneel at Neosho’s 20 rather than adding points before the end of the half.
At no point in this game did the power clock run, and Nixa didn’t begin pulling starters until late in the fourth quarter.
“Our defense played hard tonight,” Baldwins said. “They had a great second half, and really the first half wasn’t that bad either. They gave up a couple of big plays, but special teams and offense helped put them in massive holes. So I was really pleased with the defense and their effort and what they did. I thought coach (Zac) Nelson did a good job mixing up looks tonight.”
Neosho’s offense moved the ball at times, but failed to sustain drives against Nixa’s stout defense. After fumbling at the goal line on their next to last possession of the game, the Wildcats finally spoiled the shutout bid late in the fourth when sophomore quarterback Kaden Roy hit receiver Justin McKee in stride on a 44-yard pitch and catch, and Caleb Johnston booted the extra point to make it 33-7.
McKee finished the game with seven catches for 106 yards and a touchdown. Roy, who came on in the second half, also had a solid day as he completed 10 of 14 attempts for 104 yards and a score. Senior tailback Davin Bentz carried the ball 18 times for 63 yards.
The road doesn’t get any easier for the Wildcats as they take on Webb City (5-1) next week at Bob Anderson Stadium. The Cardinals, after defeating Nixa 27-24 in overtime, received a scare from Willard on Friday — they led 24-21 with less than 9 minutes left — but scored a pair of quick touchdowns late to ultimately win 38-21.
The Cardinals and Eagles seem to share some similarities. So what can the Wildcats expect to see from them?
“Well, I think they’re both great defensive teams that are good at what they do. They both play awesome defense. They don’t turn the ball over much. They’re both very disciplined, very comparable in what they’re doing.”