On Friday night, the Neosho Wildcats snapped a 20-game losing streak in spectacular fashion.
The Wildcats, who have not had a victory since defeating the Kickapoo Chiefs 28-21 on Oct. 14, 2011, routed the McDonald County Mustangs 50-0 in non-conference action at Bob Anderson Stadium.
“Our seniors hadn’t won for a while,” said Neosho Head Coach Dustin Baldwin, now in his second season with the Wildcats. “It’s good to get it over with. We put ourselves into a position to be better than last year. Hopefully, we will do a whole lot better than one win.”
The Wildcats took control early in the game and kept the pressure on the Mustangs. Wildcat sophomore wide receiver Jon Moser recovered a McDonald County fumble early in the first stanza, setting the stage for junior running back Devin Hames to have a 31-yard carry for a touchdown. A point after attempt by kicker Caleb Johnston was unsuccessful, making it a 6-0 game with 10:46 left in the first quarter.
Later in the quarter, Mustang quarterback Jake Wood fired off a pass, only to have it intercepted by the Wildcats’ Jon Rodriguez, bringing Neosho into field goal range. Johnston’s attempt soared 37 yards through the uprights, making the score 9-0 as the first quarter came to a close.
Neosho put up more points early in the second stanza, with 12-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback Austin Hailey. Johnston’s PAT was good, to make it 16-0 Wildcats.
McDonald County ended their possession after a four-play drive fell just short of a first down. Neosho answered with a 42-yard carry by Chance Branstetter for the touchdown, and Johnston with the point after to make it a 23-0 game with just under 8 minutes left in the first half.
Later in the quarter, quarterback Nathan Moser fired a 46-yard pass to Lucas Werneke in the end zone to another TD. Johnston contributed another point after, to make it 30-0 as the first half came to a close.
On their first possession of the third quarter, the Wildcats’ Bryce Murphy caught a 15-yard bomb from Hailey for another TD. The point after failed, making it 36-0 Wildcats and starting the mercy clock.
The Mustangs then took possession, but the ‘Cats kept the heat on, with Nathan Moser intercepting a pass from Wood for a 17-yard return. Hailey then handed off the ball to junior running back Cody Rains, who carried the orb inside the 5-yard line. After a one-yard loss on the next play, Rains carried the ball to the one-yard line, and Hailey kept the pigskin, pushing his way through the Mustang D to the end zone. Last season soccer standout Johnston again had the successful point after attempt, making it a 43-0 contest with 7:04 left in the third stanza. That’s where the game stood as the quarter ended, as a stingy Wildcat defensive line hobbled the Mustangs.
Field general duties were split between Hailey and Nathan Moser, who added the final TD of the night with a 26-yard spring in the fourth quarter to make it a 50-0 final.
“They both do a good job,” the coach said. “Both ran for a touchdown apiece and threw for another touchdown each. I’m pleased they work like that. Eventually, I’d like to get to one starter, but if they keep on performing like that, we’ll see how it goes.”
Baldwin said the mood was upbeat Saturday as the team watched the game film.
“But I didn’t get the feeling they were content,” he said. “That’s not to say they were dissatisfied with the way they played. They were definitely happy and upbeat. They certainly were enjoying it. But we will get back to work this Monday, and every Monday. We have to concentrate on improving, we have to show up every day. We can’t be satisfied.”
Neosho will travel to Rogersville next Friday. Meanwhile, the McDonald County Mustangs will be at home to square off against the Aurora Houn’ Dawgs in their Big 8 conference opener.