The Neosho Wildcats fell in a 28-0 hole to the Class 4 No. 1-ranked Webb City Cardinals before scoring 12 points — a methodical scoring drive to close out the first half and then a 76-yard touchdown pass from senior Gavin Kelley to fellow senior Jarvis Funk on Senior Night — to seize the momentum until …

Webb City gashed the Wildcats for a pair of big scores en route to a 42-12 lead after three quarters and a 49-12 running clock victory. Running clock started with just under 8 minutes remaining.

“I thought we played well and did some good things here and there,” Neosho head coach Leon Miller said. “But they’re a heckuva football team. We just were overmatched in a lot of areas.”

The Wildcats dropped to 1-7 overall and 0-7 in the Central Ozark Conference Large, while the Cardinals improved to 8-0 overall and 7-0 COC Large.

Neosho honored its seniors before the game and Coach Miller touched on what they have meant to the program overall and what they have meant in Coach Miller’s first season as Neosho head coach.

“They’re a good bunch of kids,” Miller said. “Coaching change, you know, and a change of direction for the program as far as schemes and things like that. They’ve handled it very well and been very positive and continued … tonight was an example. They played hard for four quarters and they’re a good bunch of kids. They’re a resilient bunch and you’ve got to really like the game to go through the challenges that we’ve been through this season.”

The Wildcats close out their regular season in Week 9 with another COC Large battle against good old rival Carthage, another one hot on the heels of Webb City. Carthage improved to 5-3 with a 48-7 win Friday over Republic, ending Republic’s two-game winning streak.

That was a big win for Carthage and a big loss for Republic, since Carthage remained the Class 5, District 5 leader with 35.75 points and the Tigers enjoy a commanding nearly five-point lead on second place Nixa. Carthage beat Nixa head-to-head and the Tigers will be the top seed.

Willard, meanwhile, jumped back ahead of Republic for the No. 3 spot and that means No. 4 Republic would host No. 5 Neosho in the opening district game. Republic and Neosho played a classic game the first time they met in Tiger Stadium.

Parkview comes in at No. 6, with the Vikings’ 19.67 points behind Neosho’s 21.93.

“They’ll show up and play hard,” Miller said. “They’ll practice hard and work hard. They’re all big. We’re going to go out and play the best we can.”

Let’s go back to Neosho’s 12-play, 74-yard scoring drive in the second quarter — 12 straight running plays and the Wildcats certainly won this series in the battle of the trenches. The Wildcats devoured nearly all the time remaining in the first half and left the Cardinals to only one play before halftime. Neosho started the drive with 4 minutes, 56 seconds remaining before halftime.

Funk had a key 15-yard run for a first down and then a 32-yard run on a third-and-long situation that produced first and goal for the Wildcats at the Webb City 9.

On fourth and goal from the 2, human battering ram Adrian Hitchcock bulled his way into the end zone for the Wildcats’ first six points.

Early in the second half, Webb City — on its first possession — called on its reserves and the Cardinals lost a fumble, recovered by sophomore linebacker Sam Cook.

Three plays later, Kelley and Funk electrified the big house at Bob Anderson — at least the Neosho side — with that 76-yard touchdown play.

On the Cardinals’ ensuing possession, the starters returned and with a short field after recovering a short kickoff, the Cardinals took back the momentum with a scoring pass on a three-play drive.

A three-and-out for the Wildcats and then a Durand Henderson 41-yard touchdown run made it a 42-12 score with 3:36 left in the third.

Henderson scored a pair of touchdown runs and the Cardinals spread the points around between several players. Cash Link threw for a pair of scores and rushed for another.

Webb City head coach John Roderique’s teams improved to 21-1 against Neosho during his tenure.