REPUBLIC — On a cold Halloween night, with temperatures at 44 degrees (and falling) announced at the start of kickoff, the Republic Tigers and the Neosho Wildcats heated things up in the second half after Republic led 1-0 at halftime of their Class 3 sectional match Tuesday.

Republic and Neosho combined for five goals in the final 40 minutes and Republic scored a pair of goals in the final 6 minutes, 42 seconds to earn a 5-2 win over Neosho.

"We were just more prepared and executed a gameplan tonight," Neosho head coach Steve Schnackenberg said of the difference between Tuesday night and a 7-1 loss Neosho suffered to Republic in their first meeting. "The defense was really good early on tonight. Those guys worked hard the last couple days to prepare (for Republic)."

In a classic tale of a match closer than its final score, Republic’s Dylan Brown and Neosho’s Bryan Perez scored all the goals.

Brown scored the first three of the match — the first 9:28 into the match off a rebound and then he scored his second on a header 7:48 after halftime and his third on a penalty kick in the 60th minute.

Perez, who scored four goals in the district tournament, scored a pair of goals in a roughly 4-minute span of the second half and the Wildcats trailed Republic 3-2 with 15:29 remaining on the clock.

The Wildcats were firing away during that span with additional shots by Perez and Hunter Gilliam that just missed their mark.
Neosho played with the same never-say-quit spirit they have all season.

"That's something this team has always done," Schnackenberg said. "We feel we have had a lot of hard knocks early in games and played from behind a lot. They didn't quit all season."

The final 9:03 saw a pair of yellow cards for Republic (Luis Elivo jerez and Austin Beck) and one red card on Perez, as tempers flared like hemorrhoids after 70 minutes of physical soccer amid high stakes.

Brown picked up his fourth goal with 6:42 remaining and then added his fifth with just 7 seconds remaining on the clock, as if he was chasing a personal milestone or something to that effect.

In fact, Brown crossed 100 career goals — becoming the first Republic player to score 100 career goals — and his 52 goals on the season are tied for the 10th best individual season in state history. Brown stands at 103 for his career.

Republic improved to 22-4 overall entering Saturday’s match against Glendale.

Neosho finished its season 10-13 overall, but the Wildcats finished 9-5 after a tough 1-8 start and won their first district title since 2004 and only their third in program history.

"Again, the never-quit attitude," Schnackenberg said. "We had a few big losses and came back and competed in close games with those teams later in the season. Even beat Joplin after a 3-1 loss our first game."

The Wildcats were close to reaching a milestone Tuesday — closer than the final score — and shots by Angel Alvarado and Yahir Ruiz in the first half were saved by Republic goalkeeper Dalton Ghan, who needed all of his 6-foot-3 frame Tuesday night for Alverado’s and Ruiz’s shots. Those shots could have been goals and the Wildcats could have gone in with a 2-1 halftime lead, changing the complexion of the entire match.

"Their keeper made two really good saves that would have changed the game," Schnackenberg said. "Hunter had a shot miss by about a foot that would have tied it at 3 when we made our run back at them. That would have helped the game not open up so much and given them the space they used for their last two goals."

Republic took 14 shots overall, 12 on goal, and had two corner kicks. Neosho had nine shots overall, six on goal, and five corners.
Hank Selig made seven saves for Neosho with three against Brown.

Neosho seniors Jared Scribner, Gilliam, Matias Ruiz, Oscar Lumas, Connor Brooks, and Selig played their final games for the Wildcats and this group achieved what other senior classes before them did not with that district title.

"They were all so dedicated and their practice intensity and expectations of the other players really set the tone this season," Schnackenberg said. "They worked so hard to reach their goals. They will also be hard to replace on the field. If these young guys work in the offseason and work at practice like the seniors showed this year, we will have some guys step up. But they have their work cut out for them to match these seniors."