The Neosho Wildcats have an opportunity to clinch a winning regular season Friday night when they make a trip to Willard to face the Tigers in a Week 8 Central Ozark Conference clash.
A winning regular season would give the Wildcats their third winning season in four years and their first under head coach Leon Miller.
The Wildcats are coming off a strong 35-12 win last week over conference and district rival Carl Junction, while the Tigers have descended from 2-2 to 2-5 after consecutive losses to Carl Junction (17-13), Republic (27-20), and Carthage (50-24).
We have teams currently headed in opposite directions, and the Wildcats would love to keep the momentum rolling when district play begins at the end of October.
It was a strong home victory last week for Neosho against Carl Junction: approaching 350 rushing yards offensively with four turnovers forced and three quarterback sacks defensively.
The Neosho defense has given three straight outstanding performances against Nixa, Joplin, and Carl Junction. Tre Letts put the Wildcats on the scoreboard last week with a highlight reel 17-yard interception return for a touchdown; file that play alongside his 96-yard fumble return for a TD in the season opener against Ozark.
The Wildcats forced two more turnovers in the first half and then recovered the second half kickoff. Donnie Fox scored on a 45-yard run in the first half and then after the kickoff recovery, Gage Kelley hit Connor McGehee for a 6-yard scoring pass on fourth-and-goal and the Wildcats led 21-6.
Bret Camerer and Cade Lyerla added rushing TDs down the stretch.
"They're all important,” Miller said after speaking to his team 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 are 2-1 on the road this season with victories over Branson (20-7) and Nixa (21-6).
Against the Pirates, Neosho jumped right out of the gates with two quick scores and the Wildcat defense intercepted Branson quarterback Gabe Sylvester four times. This was on the same field where Branson later gave unbeaten Webb City a scare. Neither Neosho nor Branson scored in the second half that night.
Against the Eagles, Neosho fumbled away the opening kickoff and Nixa scored a touchdown only three plays later. After that dubious start, however, Neosho throttled Nixa on defense and the Wildcat offense wore down Nixa after halftime with multiple 10-plus-play possessions.
Neosho’s only road loss came against Webb City.
Friday night would be a great opportunity for the Wildcats to improve to 5-3 with a victory against a reeling Willard squad.
Neosho already owns four wins this season against teams it lost to during last season.
DIAMOND (3-4) at SARCOXIE (4-3)
The Wildcats enter this Southwest Conference clash with consecutive wins against one-win Liberal (20-6) and winless Pleasant Hope (46-6).
Diamond blitzed Pleasant Hope in the first half with 20 points in each quarter, and the Wildcats were led offensively by running backs Chad Stephens and Kolbe Jones. Stephens rushed for 103 yards and three scores on 12 carries and Jones gained 90 yards and scored one TD on nine carries. Landon Clement and Joey Hobbs also found the end zone to contribute to the Wildcats’ six TDs.
Hunter Shallenburger intercepted a pair of passes and Austin Behler and Colby Housh each picked off Pirate passes. Hobbs recovered a fumble.
Shallenburger leads the Wildcats with four interceptions this season and Behler and Housh are not far behind with three and two picks, respectively.
Sarcoxie has won three of its last four games, with a 29-22 win last week over Marionville. Marionville blanked Diamond 40-0 earlier this season.
Diamond’s three wins have come against teams with a combined three victories this season.
The Wildcats outscored those three opponents (Ash Grove, Liberal, Pleasant Hope) a combined 82-12, but were outscored themselves a combined 181-24 in losses to Pierce City, Lighthouse Christian, Miller, and Marionville.
EAST NEWTON (0-7) at SENECA (2-5)
This Newton County and Big 8 Conference rivalry game features one team right where it’s expected to be (East Newton) and one team who’s a surprising team with a losing record (Seneca) entering Week 8.
Seneca took a 37-14 loss last week to Mount Vernon, one of the premier defensive teams in both the Big 8 and Class 3.
The Indians began the game with a bang, driving 64 yards in 11 plays and scoring a touchdown on a 15-yard pass from Gavin Clouse to Daythen Long.
Mount Vernon hit Seneca with 30 unanswered points, a string broken when Clouse hit Monty Mailes on a 12-yard pass in the fourth quarter.
Seneca closes out the regular season against Class 2 East Newton and Class 4 McDonald County, a great opportunity for the Indians to head into the postseason with positive momentum and improved district seeding.
East Newton enters Friday night on a 19-game losing streak, dating back to late in the 2016 season, after last week’s 35-6 loss to Monett.
About halfway through the first quarter last week, East Newton trailed Monett only 7-6 after Ryan Millett’s 2-yard touchdown run.
East Newton trailed by only a point until the second quarter when Monett scored a pair of TDs for a 21-6 halftime lead.
Monett scored two more rushing TDs in the fourth quarter.
Keep in mind that East Newton ended its previous losing streak in 2016 with a win over Seneca.
McDONALD COUNTY (3-4) at MONETT (2-5)
Despite missing the end zone the last two weeks against unbeaten Cassville and unbeaten Lamar, McDonald County senior running back Oakley Roessler still has scored 16 touchdowns. He’s well over 1,000 yards and this is his first year as varsity running back after being the Mustangs’ leading receiver last season.
Do not be surprised if Roessler and the Mustangs have a big game Friday night against their Big 8 Conference West and Class 4, District 6 rival.
Fumbles and turnovers in general have been a problem this season for Monett, and that could play right into the hands of McDonald County.
McDonald County and Monett are currently sixth and eighth in the eight-team district. Grand prize for the eighth team will be a matchup against the defending Class 4 state champion, Webb City, and nobody wants that.
Friday night marks the first time former Monett assistant and current McDonald County head coach Kellen Hoover returns to Burl Fowler Stadium on the visitors’ sideline.
McDonald County won a 21-18 nail-biter from Monett last season, and it’s quite possible that the Mustangs and the Cubs will produce another one Friday night.