In a game reminiscent of their 21-6 win a couple weeks ago over Nixa, the Neosho Wildcats fell behind early Friday night in their Central Ozark Conference game against Carl Junction at Bob Anderson Stadium, but righted the ship with another strong defensive performance the rest of the night and their offense wore down the opposing defense after halftime en route to a 35-12 win.

On Carl Junction's first play from scrimmage, wide receiver Tyler White took a handoff from quarterback Joe Kennedy and went untouched 52 yards for a touchdown with 7 minutes, 38 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

On Carl Junction's next possession, however, Neosho senior linebacker Tre Letts again showed his dynamic athleticism and big-play ability when he intercepted Kennedy's pass, worked his way through a Carl Junction tackle, and sprinted into the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown.

Keep in mind that in the season-opening win against Ozark, Letts returned a fumble 96 yards for a touchdown.

Neosho forced two more turnovers in the first half and then recovered the second half kickoff, and the offense cashed in for a 21-6 lead early in the third quarter on a 6-yard scoring pass from Gage Kelley to Connor McGehee on a huge fourth down conversion.

The Wildcats punched in two more rushing touchdowns, Bret Camerer on a 10-yard run and Cade Lyerla on a 20-yard run. Meanwhile, Donnie Fox scored on a 45-yard scamper in the first half.

Neosho improved to 4-3 overall and COC with the victory and stayed in second in the Class 4, District 6 standings with 43.4 points. Carl Junction dropped to fourth at 35. Marshfield jumped over the Bulldogs to third and 37.71 points.

"They're all important," Neosho head coach Leon Miller said over the stereo blast of James Brown's "I Feel Good" after the victory. "This is no different. We wanted to come out and play well against a good football team, and that's what we were able to accomplish tonight. Hats off to my kids. They played their tails off.

"Its been excellent (our defense). Coach (Eric) Yoakam, Coach (Larry) Perkins, Coach (Kyle) Wood, Coach (Josh) Yarnell, they're doing a great job. Our offense complements our defense and that gives us our identity. We know who we are, we know how we want to play, and most nights, it works out for us."

The Wildcats have given three straight strong defensive performances, holding Nixa and Carl Junction to a grand total of 18 points (nearly all those points scored in the first quarter) and blanking explosive Joplin for the entire first half before one of the best individual performers around, Joplin's Zach Westmoreland, scored three times after halftime en route to a 20-6 Joplin victory.

Neosho proved strong defensively in the first two weeks of the season against Ozark and Branson.

On Friday night, Neosho gained 340 yards on the ground and the defense produced four turnovers, elements that result in winning football games.

Lyerla led the ground gainers with 126 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries, Fox tallied 86 yards and his first TD on 11 carries, and Camerer provided a nice change-of-pace late with 45 yards and one TD on four carries.

The Wildcats again wore down an opponent's defense into near-submission.

Kennedy scored on a 19-yard run in the second half, the only blemish on the Wildcats after surrendering that big play early.

Neosho returns on the road in Week 8 to go up against a 2-5 Willard squad coming off four straight losses since a 2-1 start. The Tigers have fallen to Carl Junction (17-13), Republic (27-20), Webb City (41-0), and Carthage (50-24).

The Wildcats are 2-1 on the road so far this season with victories over Branson (20-7) and Nixa (21-6) and their only loss against unbeaten Webb City (41-0), the defending Class 4 state champions.