REPUBLIC — In the final game played at Republic’s Tiger Stadium, the Neosho Wildcats imposed their will both offensively and defensively against the Republic Tigers, producing a 42-21 win Friday night in the Class 5, District 5 playoffs.

The Wildcats produced five rushing touchdowns behind offensive linemen Kipp Box, Ethan White, Ryan Slade, Sean Moran, and Issac Johnston, as well as their other backs, tight ends, and receivers.

Republic senior quarterback Riley Watkins, who limped back over to the Republic sideline play-after-play to get the next one from former Neosho head coach Dustin Baldwin, took more hits than the Billboard Hot 100 and Neosho’s DJs of pain dispensation included Hunter Lockwood, Tre Letts, Adrian Hitchcock, Drew Osborn, Quincey Willis, Moran, and Box, a regular rotation of pain infliction seemingly from every conceivable angle.

Neosho — now 2-8 overall — earns a district semifinal contest against old rival and top district seed Carthage at David Haffner Stadium. The Tigers had a bye by virtue of their top seed.

“Everybody was getting off the ball,” Neosho head coach Leon Miller said. “We dominated the line of scrimmage and the backs were running hard. Defensively, we controlled them in the first half before they had a big play early in the half and another one later.

“The kickoff return was huge. We needed something at that point. Just super proud of these guys. They come out here, we’ve been getting better and better and better every week and they kept believing and working hard. Tonight was a result of that.

“We get to play another week. We appreciate the opportunity and we’re going to work hard and do our best against Carthage.”

Like the first time Neosho and Republic played this season at Tiger Stadium, the fourth quarter was a very memorable one … but this time, Neosho left Republic to be the one heartbroken.

Just 1 minute, 48 seconds — 108 seconds — of the fourth alone produced more drama than most games do over the course of their entire length.

Neosho started the run of two touchdowns for each team on a Hitchcock 1-yard touchdown run with 10:00 left in the fourth. Cade Lyerla made a pair of big runs for the Wildcats on this drive and Hitchcock set up his scoring run with an 8-yard run down to the Republic 1. Jarvis Funk ended the previous Republic drive with one of three Neosho interceptions on the night.

Lyerla’s conversion run gave the Wildcats a three-score lead.

Down 28-7, Republic scored 14 points in a matter of 12 seconds — Watkins finding Treydon Rackley for a pair of scoring passes, five and 25 yards respectively. The 5-yard scoring pass was set up by a successful halfback pass from Jaden Duvall to Rackley.

The Tigers recovered an onside kick after their first score (also helped out by a 15-yard personal foul penalty assessed against Neosho on the kickoff, so when Republic recovered the onside kick, the Tigers took possession at the Neosho 32) and that set up one of the key moments in the game.

Now suddenly a 28-21 game and momentum seemingly on Republic’s side, the next Grant Holmes kickoff proved critical.

Neosho brought out its All-State team — players like quarterback Gavin Kelley, Hitchcock, and tight end Letts — to prepare for the next possible onside.

Republic decided to kick it deep and the Tigers were made to pay.

The stage was set for Funk — whose moments include a 200-yard rushing effort against Logan-Rogersville on Homecoming and a long touchdown reception against Webb City — to add another memorable chapter to his senior year.

In sports, phrases have often been said like “Manny Being Manny,” for example, although that example was not exactly a positive one.

However, Neosho head coach Miller just added one to the lexicon during the following quote to describe Funk’s 84-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

“It was a huge play,” Miller said. “We’re setting up the hands team because they onside kicked it the time before and Jarvis being Jarvis, he found a seam and took it.”

The Wildcats definitely hope Jarvis keeps being Jarvis next week against Carthage.

Except for that brief stretch in the fourth quarter, Republic’s offense never really found a groove, mostly since Neosho wreaked havoc on Republic’s plans right from the start.

“That’s what we were hoping that we could do,” Miller said. “If we shut down their run, we could make them more one-dimensional. That makes them a little more predictable.”

Meanwhile, Neosho rarely struggled offensively and the Wildcats’ offensive line — as well as the defensive line — played its best game of the season.

“They’ve grown up and grown as an unit,” Miller said. “You can see that on the field. They know what each other’s going to do.”

In his interview with Republic Tiger Sports, Baldwin acknowledged Neosho’s work Friday night.

“They’re playing better,” Baldwin said. “We knew that. We saw it on film. They’re a huge offensive line. They outweigh us probably 50 pounds to a man, and we didn’t do a great job in terms of our run fits, especially on the back side.”

In the first half, Neosho took a 20-0 halftime lead behind three rushing TDs — a pair of Kelley runs and a Hitchcock 1-yard run on fourth down late in the half — and relentless defense.

The Tigers also did themselves no favors.

In the first game, Republic had three touchdowns called back due to penalty. On Friday night, Cam Flood’s 62-yard punt return for a touchdown — in a 7-0 game at that point — was called back due to an illegal block in the back.

Flood’s only score of the game came on a 55-yard TD pass from Watkins 22 seconds after halftime.

Friday night marked Neosho’s third straight win in a district playoff opener, including back-to-back seasons against Republic.