The Neosho Wildcats have already matched their win total from all of last season after 35-0 and 20-7 wins over Ozark and Branson, respectively, to start the season.
Neosho enters its Week 3 matchup against defending Class 4 state champion Webb City (14 state football titles over the Cardinals’ distinguished football history) as the leader in Class 4, District 6 by virtue of wins over a Class 6 (Ozark) and a Class 5 (Branson). Neosho earned points alone for playing up.
Neosho leads with 63 points and Webb City’s not far behind at 58. Webb City earned a 47-27 victory last week over Class 6 Joplin.
Neosho and Webb City have played each other 97 times in football, every year since 1920 barring back-to-back seasons in 1979 and 1980. The Cardinals lead the overall series 54-39-4, and that’s helped out by winning 19 straight matchups against Neosho dating back to 1999. That’s the only time Webb City has lost to Neosho during Cardinals head coach John Roderique’s tenure.
Last season, Webb City scored 14 points in each of the first three quarters en route to a 49-12 win, and that was the first meeting against Webb City for veteran head coach Leon Miller.
The Wildcats have made strides in Miller’s second season, with the players buying into the system and building confidence from their early success.
All that confidence will certainly be needed Friday night at Cardinal Stadium against the perennial powerhouse who’s had Neosho’s number over the last two decades.
Last week against Branson, Neosho ball carriers Gage Kelley and Cade Lyerla each gained over 100 yards, Kelley helped out by a 50-yard touchdown run late in the first half and Lyerla a 71-yard touchdown run for the first Neosho points. Kelley’s found the end zone six times already this season.
Neither team scored in the second half — Neosho scored 14 points early on — and the Wildcats forced six Branson turnovers, five after halftime and four interceptions. Bret Camerer picked off two passes and Lyerla and Brady Franklin each derailed Branson drives. Quincey Willis recovered a muffed punt.
Over eight quarters of football, Neosho has surrendered just a single touchdown.
Like Neosho, Webb City’s an old-fashioned, smash mouth football team right off the Pittsburg State block (both Miller and Roderique played at Pitt State).
Durand Henderson and Devrin Weathers have nearly been featured almost equally for the Cardinals, Henderson 233 yards and two TDs on 34 carries and Weathers 214 yards and two TDs on 33 carries.
New starting quarterback Cade Beason has rushed for 156 yards and four scores on 18 attempts.
The Cardinals have completed five passes on the season, three of them to Alex Gaskill for 109 yards and one score.
Defensively, the Cardinals have a pair of quarterback sacks and three interceptions, but the Wildcats pass very infrequently.
The Wildcats are led by their men upfront on both sides of the ball and if they can win both offensively and defensively upfront and avoid turnovers, do not count out the Wildcats.
DIAMOND (1-1) at LIGHTHOUSE CHRISTIAN (2-0)
The Chargers are the defending Homeschool National Champions and have a 2-0 start this season with a 36-12 win over Capitol Hill (Oklahoma City) in Week 1 and a 54-13 win over Forsyth last week.
Meanwhile, Diamond comes off a 35-0 loss to Southwest Conference foe Pierce City, a step back after the Wildcats’ opening 16-0 win against Ash Grove.
Diamond senior quarterback Sparky Bridgewater leads the Wildcats with 168 yards and one touchdown passing, while Chad Stephens leads the Wildcats on the ground with 101 yards on 22 carries. Colby Housh leads the receivers with 11 grabs for 84 yards, including 10 catches for 75 yards against Ash Grove.
Diamond forced four turnovers against Ash Grove, none against Pierce City.
The Wildcats can expect a lot of passing from the Chargers, who play against public schools early in their schedule before gaining a head of steam toward a postseason run.
Friday night’s contest will be played at Kickapoo High in Springfield.
McDONALD COUNTY (1-1) at EAST NEWTON (0-2)
The Patriots remain looking for their first win under second-year head coach Broc Wolfe, and it’s just not been easy sledding for the Patriots — outscored 68-0 this season in losses to Hollister (35-0) and Aurora (33-0). A penalty denied the Patriots what would have been their first points of the season, last week against Aurora.
Since a season-high 25 points last season against Aurora, the Patriots have only managed 12 points — six each against Seneca and Monett — in their last eight games.
That includes a 54-0 loss in Week 8 last season to McDonald County.
The Mustangs rebounded from an opening road loss to Marshfield (41-7) with a 21-13 home win over Logan-Rogersville.
Senior running back Oakley Roessler will have to be a concern for East Newton’s defense, since he tallied over 200 yards and the Mustangs’ only TD against Marshfield and came back with 123 yards and one touchdown against Logan-Rogersville.
Mustang quarterback Ben Mora improved behind center in his second start after a rough opener against Marshfield.
This is the Big 8 West opener for both schools.
NEVADA (0-2) at SENECA (0-2)
You might have been rich (at least better off) if before the season you bet the Neosho Wildcats are 2-0 and the Seneca Indians 0-2 after the first two weeks.
After all, Neosho won all of two and Seneca lost all of two games last season.
The Indians welcome their new Big 8 West rival Tigers to Earl Campbell Stadium, and both teams are in desperate need for a victory.
Seneca fell 50-42 to Springfield Catholic and 28-0 to Reeds Spring, with neither week featuring both offense and defense effectively. The Indians were blanked for the first time since a 14-0 loss to East Newton on September 16, 2016; at home, you would have to go back to a 59-0 loss to Lamar in Week 2 of the 2014 season.
Seneca’s offense might have a chance to get back on track after last week’s shutout, since the Tigers have surrendered on average 50 points per game after 48 against Reeds Spring and 52 against Mount Vernon.
The second half has been unkind, very unkind to Nevada this season.
Reeds Spring erupted for 32 points in the third quarter and Mount Vernon outscored Nevada 22-0 in the second half after Nevada trailed 22-16 at halftime.
Something will have to give Friday night at Earl Campbell.