The Neosho Wildcats hit the Carl Junction Bulldogs early with a big play, but eventually turnovers caught up with the home team and the Bulldogs scored 28 points off turnovers en route to a 35-7 win Friday night at Bob Anderson Stadium.

The Neosho Wildcats hit the Carl Junction Bulldogs early with a big play, but eventually turnovers caught up with the home team and the Bulldogs scored 28 points off turnovers en route to a 35-7 win Friday night at Bob Anderson Stadium.
Rayquion Weston scored on a pair of touchdown runs, quarterback Joe Kennedy ran for one TD and passed for another, and Lucas Birliew closed out the scoring with a 9-yard TD run with 11 minutes, 1 second remaining in the contest.
On the third play from scrimmage, Neosho senior quarterback Gavin Kelley sent Bob Anderson into a frenzy only 1:20 into the contest with a 64-yard touchdown run, Neosho’s longest play of the season.
After that, Neosho’s turnover problem reared itself again and the Bulldogs took advantage on the scoreboard.
The Bulldogs hurt themselves with a pair of turnovers in the first half — Weston stripped of the football only a couple yards from a tie score on the Bulldogs’ first possession and Kennedy threw an interception late in the first half. Carl Junction could have led 35-7 at halftime without turnovers.
Neosho remained the only winless team in the Central Ozark Conference Large and the Wildcats finish up a three-game home stay Friday against the Nixa Eagles, who remained in the land of the unbeatens with a 31-26 win Friday night over the Republic Tigers.
Opponents have outscored Neosho 109-35 this season, with the Wildcats scoring just a touchdown in each of their last three games.
Last season, Nixa and Neosho played two close games in Nixa ultimately won by the Eagles. Last time Neosho and Nixa played at Bob Anderson, the Wildcats pulled off a 38-35 win over a then state-ranked Nixa squad, arguably the signature win of former head coach Dustin Baldwin’s tenure.
Carl Junction — ranked No. 2 in Class 4 — improved to 3-1 overall and COC Large.
Neosho’s Connor McGehee stripped Weston of the ball and Jarvis Funk recovered the fumble at the Neosho 2. The Wildcats drove their way out to midfield and continued to devour large chunks of the clock before having to punt.
Kelley’s 37-yard punt pinned Carl Junction at its own 13, but the Bulldogs used a pair of big plays to earn a tie score with only 31 seconds remaining in the first. Kennedy busted loose on a 41-yard run and then he connected with Aaron Ludders on a 47-yard touchdown pass.
Only eight seconds later, Carl Junction took back possession on a Neosho fumble.
Ten plays later, Carl Junction took a 14-7 lead on a Kennedy 3-yard run. The Bulldogs kept the drive alive with a pair of fourth down plays — Kennedy hit Birliew over the middle for a 27-yard gain on a fourth-and-17 at the Neosho 36 and then on a fourth-and-1 at the Neosho 6, bruising fullback Zeke Wall pounded his way for three yards. One play later, Kennedy scored his TD.
The Wildcats’ subsequent drive had its moments, including a James Renfro 11-yard run on a fourth-and-6, but Tre Letts was stripped of the ball at the Carl Junction 10.
The Bulldogs methodically drove 90 yards in 13 plays and nearly three minutes off the clock, hitting the Wildcats with a heavy dose of Weston. Weston took nine carries on the drive and capped off his 71 yards on the drive with a 1-yard touchdown 3:59 before halftime. Weston generated five first downs and one TD on the drive.
After a Neosho three-and-out, Carl Junction started a promising drive late in the half, with Kennedy finding Birliew and Ludders on a pair of first downs. Fortunately, for Neosho, Renfro capitalized on a misguided Kennedy pass for the interception.
On the Wildcats’ first second half possession, a leaping Adrian Hitchcock gained 25 yards on the first play, but the promising drive fizzled out at the Carl Junction 25 when the Bulldogs stood up Renfro for no gain on a fourth-and-2.
The Bulldogs again provided Neosho with a heavy dose of Weston, his six carries on the drive culminating in a 4-yard TD run and a 28-7 advantage with 5:41 remaining in the third.
Neosho did come through with a key defensive stop on Carl Junction’s next possession, as the Wildcats stopped Kennedy shy of the end zone on a fourth-and-goal at the Neosho 2.
The Bulldogs drove a long way for no points, starting at their own 5 on a botched punt return. Renfro just missed tackling Kennedy for a safety and on a third-and-6 at their own 9-yard line, Kennedy found Birliew — on a busted coverage — for a 64-yard pass-and-catch down to the Neosho 13.
After stopping Carl Junction, Neosho again proved to be its own worst enemy, as Wall stripped Kelley of the ball and the Bulldogs recovered at the Neosho 9. One play later, Birliew found paydirt for a 9-yard run and 28-point lead.

Around the COC
— Webb City 55, Willard 10
The Cardinals’ 7-3 lead after one quarter quickly turned into a 41-3 halftime lead and Webb City joins Nixa as the lone 4-0 teams in the COC Large, although one of Nixa’s wins came outside the conference. In that dominating first half, Cash Link scored three touchdowns, Will Larson two, and Terrell Kabala one, while Alex Gaskill intercepted Willard quarterback Quintin Batson three times.
— Branson 17, Ozark 14
The Pirates lost a 21-19 heartbreaker earlier this season against Nixa, but improved to 2-2 with a three-point win over No. 10-ranked in Class 5 Ozark. Ryan Still gave Branson the lead for good on a touchdown run with four minutes remaining. Keigan Dougherty’s sack helped derail any Ozark winning drive.
— Nixa 31, Republic 26
Jack Sanders proved a jack of all touchdowns Friday night for the Eagles, throwing three touchdown passes and running for Nixa’s other score. Sanders passed for 262 yards. Nixa improved to 3-0 in conference, with the Eagles’ last two wins coming by a combined touchdown over Branson and Republic. Winning close games, that’s important.
— Carthage 64, Springfield Central 0
The Tigers stepped outside the COC Large to drill a struggling Springfield Central program. Carthage led 42-0 at halftime, as the Tigers scored all six of their touchdowns on the ground. Nixa and Carthage outscored Central 102-0 over consecutive weeks and opponents have outscored Central 165-16 this season.