Similar to previous football games, Neosho High School found itself in a hole it couldn’t dig out of.
In a Class 5 District 6 football game with Belton at Bob Anderson Stadium on Friday night, Neosho fell behind 20-6 at halftime.
Although the Wildcats only yielded three second-half points, their running game was neutralized throughout as Belton posted a 23-6 victory.
“We had plenty of chances,” said NHS head coach Dustin Baldwin of his team’s sixth straight loss in finishing with a 3-7 record. “Our offense moved the ball, for the most part. We got into the red zone twice and didn’t score.”
Belton, featuring a big-play passing game that accumulated 219 yards in just eight plays, improves to 4-6.
“I was proud of the defense, especially in the second half, to give up just three points,” Baldwin said. “Really, they didn’t do much at all in the second half.
“We just needed to put more points on the board.”
Belton led 7-0 after driving 75 yards in six plays on the opening drive of the game. Highlighting the Pirates’ drive was a 38-yard completion from freshman quarterback Bart Harris to Daren Johnson, along with a 34-yard completion on a screen pass to Zach Willis.
The latter play gave Belton first-and-goal at the 2, where Johnson scored on a 2-yard plunge with nine minutes, nine seconds remaining in the first quarter.
After NHS went three-and-out on its first possession, Harris hit on an 82-yard touchdown bomb to Jaslon Willis for a 14-0 lead with the game only three minutes, 11 seconds old.
Neosho cut the margin to 14-6 late in the first quarter on a 6-yard scoring pass from quarterback Nathan Moser to sophomore wide receiver Bryce Murphy. It capped an impressive 10-play, 69-yard scoring march.
Murphy had a monster game for the Wildcats, finishing with a career-high 105 yards in seven receptions.
A 57-yard pass completion from Harris to Jaslon Willis set up the Pirates’ third score, a 3-yard rushing TD by Johnson to make it 20-6 with 6:59 remaining in the second quarter.
The only points in the second half came on Caleb Chevalier’s 32-yard field goal with 3:39 remaining in the third quarter to increase the margin to 23-6.
Belton bottled up Neosho’s running game throughout. Junior running back Devin Hames, who averaged 93.1 rushing yards per game during the regular season, finished with only 61 yards in 16 carries.
Moser, who completed 11 of 20 passes for 147 yards, also finished with nine yards in 16 carries. NHS finished with only 73 yards on the ground.
“(Belton) ran an odd-front and gave our line a lot of different looks,” Baldwin said, “and we didn’t handle it that great.
“They were really athletic in there. They weren’t big, they were quick, and it gave us a lot of problems. We hoped to run the ball a little bit better inside, and I think their ability to stop the inside was the difference in the game.”
Harris finished 8-for-14 for 219 yards with two interceptions. Jaslon Willis had four catches for 178 yards, and Zach Willis rushed for 99 yards on 25 carries.