This is gut-check time for the Neosho Wildcats.
After opening the high school football season with a 3-1 record, the Wildcats have fallen on hard times the past couple weeks, including a 39-7 Central Ozark Conference setback to Nixa on Friday night at Eagle Stadium.
It doesn’t gets any easier this coming Friday — far from it — as the Wildcats (3-3 overall, 1-3 conference) travel to powerhouse Webb City to take on the Cardinals — the four-time defending state champion in Class 4.
Similar to the previous week, where Neosho lost at home to Carthage, 42-14, the Wildcats found themselves playing from behind.
Nixa (2-4, 2-2) didn’t waste any time seizing momentum, scoring early and often during first-quarter action, where it built a 17-0 lead and never looked back.
“Offensively, we got no push and couldn’t run the ball,” NHS head coach Dustin Baldwin said. “Credit to Nixa, I guess.
“Their defensive line kind of manhandled us and offensively, we couldn’t get them out of our end, so we gave them good field position and they took advantage of it with some early plays.”
Do-everything quarterback-placekicker-linebacker Logan Tyler wasted little time in putting the Eagles on the scoreboard after they deferred on the opening kickoff.
After Neosho had a three-and-out on the opening drive of the game, followed by a shanked punt, it took only two plays for the Eagles to find the end zone. After he completed a 23-yard pass to tight end Brody Stringer for a first down at the NHS 15-yard line, Tyler took flight on a 15-yard scoring run on the next play for a 7-0 lead with 10:06 remaining in the first quarter.
Nixa made it 10-0 on Tyler’s 30-yard field goal at the 2:47 mark, and then running back Jourden Riley capped its onslaught on a 4-yard scoring run with 5.1 seconds left in the period, making it 17-0.
The Wildcats regrouped in the second quarter and cut the margin to 17-7 at halftime. Senior quarterback Nathan Moser came off the bench and threw a 52-yard touchdown pass to Bryce Murphy, who raced untouched down the right sideline with 51.3 seconds remaining before the half.
“The defense had a good second quarter, and Moser came in and did some things,” Baldwin said. “We ran a double-move there with Bryce.
“When Bryce does things right, Bryce is a very good player.”
The Eagles made a last-ditch effort before halftime to score again, but Tyler, a left-footed kicker, narrowly missed wide right on a 47-yarder as the first-half game clock expired.
Nixa regained its momentum after intermission, although Tyler narrowly missed, wide right — again — on a 45-yard field goal in the third quarter.
Riley had his second touchdown on a 45-yard scoring burst at the 3:26 mark to make it 24-7. Nixa backup quarterback Dawson Mills threw 37- and 13-yard touchdown passes to tight end Chase Allen, the first with 2:14 left in the third quarter and the second with 8:10 remaining in the game.
“We didn’t cover him,” Baldwin said of Allen, “so it’s not hard to catch the football.”
Allen is the son of Terry Allen, the head football coach at Missouri State University.
Nixa put up 374 yards in total offense, including 208 on the ground.
Nixa was playing without standout running back Alec Murphy, a 6-foot-1, 220-pounder and a Mississippi State commitment. He is expected to be back this week.
HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
Central Ozark Conference
Friday At Nixa Eagle Stadium
Nixa 39, Neosho 7
Neosho 0 7 0 0 — 7
Nixa 17 0 15 7 — 39
Nixa — Logan Tyler 15 run (Tyler kick), 10:06
Nixa — Tyler FG 30, 2:47
Nixa — Jourden Riley 4 run (Tyler kick), 5.1
Neosho — Bryce Murphy 52 pass from Nathan Moser (Caleb Johnston kick), 51.3
Nixa — Riley 45 run (Tyler kick), 3:26
Nixa — Chase Allen 37 pass from Dawson Mills (Mills run), 2:14
Nixa — Chase Allen 13 pass from Mills (Tyler kick), 8:10