In 20 regular season matches, the Neosho Wildcats played nine matches decided by a goal.

Thus, it was no real surprise the Wildcats made it 10 during Tuesday night’s Class 3, District 12 semifinal against rival McDonald County at Bob Anderson Stadium.

Neosho scored a pair of goals early in the second half and managed to hang on tightly for a 3-2 win to advance to Thursday night’s district championship against Webb City.

Webb City broke a scoreless stalemate with less than 2 seconds remaining on the clock in overtime. The Cardinals celebrated, while the defending district champions were heartbroken.

In the regular season, Neosho defeated Webb City 1-0.

“We had some chances to put them (McDonald County) away early in the game and there early at the start of the second half,” Neosho head coach Steve Schnackenberg said of Tuesday night. “We just didn’t do it and that’s what happens, they come back and get one at the end there and make it close and make it exciting. We’ve got to get those chances that we have and put those away.

“We had an own goal in the first half and we’ve had a lot of things happen like that to us this year. You’ve got to be proud of these guys. They never quit and they never let that get them down. We just keep playing hard and we did it again (Tuesday).”

For a boys soccer program dating back decades, Tuesday and Thursday at Bob Anderson mark a historic occasion for the Wildcats.

“This is the first time we’ve ever hosted districts,” Schnackenberg said. “It’s exciting and it’s different for everybody. I think we had a little bit of jitters from that, too.”

Maybe the Wildcats’ jitters will be gone Thursday night.

In the first match between Neosho and Webb City, the Wildcats were the far more aggressive offensive team — 14-3 shots overall, 6-2 on goal, and 4-1 corner kick advantages for Neosho.

Senior goalkeeper Hank Selig had one save and the team had the other two.

Matias Ruiz scored the only goal in the 77th minute, part of five Neosho shots within that 77th minute by Etian Pupo, Bryan Perez, and Yahir Ruiz as well as another shot by Matias Ruiz.

“They were relentless against Carl,” Schnackenberg said of Webb City. “We’ve got to be ready for the same thing again and just gut it out. They’re going to be all over the field, after the ball, and we’re just going to have to get it down on the ground and move it around. We’re looking forward to the contest.”

On Tuesday night, Neosho’s speedy substitute Perez opened the scoring with a goal 15 minutes before halftime. Perez beat a McDonald County defender and the goalkeeper to the ball and kicked it home.

Just a few minutes later, however, McDonald County tied it up on an own goal 6 minutes and the teams went into intermission tied at 1.

Ten minutes into the second half, Neosho went ahead 3-1 on goals by Yahir Ruiz and Perez.

McDonald County’s Eh Doh Say closed out the scoring with a goal in the 74th minute and Selig later made a save and then corralled any possible rebound to maintain the 3-2 status quo.

Neosho improved to 9-12 overall this season with the victory, while McDonald County — just playing its second district match in program history — finished 6-11 on the season.

The Mustangs, in only their third season of existence, doubled their wins total from last season and matched their win total from their inaugural 2015 season.

The Mustangs have been coached all three seasons by former Neosho and Crowder soccer player James Carter.