The Webb City Cardinals scored on their first three offensive possessions en route to a 21-0 lead early second quarter and eventual 34-6 victory Friday night over the Neosho Wildcats at historic Bob Anderson Stadium.
Neosho — 1-2 overall and Central Ozark Conference — returns to action in Week 4 against Carthage. The Tigers, like the Cardinals in Week 3, are coming off a loss to Joplin; Carthage lost 56-55 in a transcendent thriller that came down to the very last play.
The Eagles are in the early driver’s seat in the COC race, being the lone unbeaten team in a conference filled with many 2-1 and 1-2 teams. In fact, there’s six teams — Branson, Carl Junction, Neosho, Nixa, Republic, and Willard — currently at 1-2. Carthage, Ozark, and Webb City are 2-1.
Big plays on third, fourth down
The Wildcat defense struggled keeping the Cardinals off the field, while the Webb City defense did not, until it was a 34-0 game in the fourth quarter.
Part of that was Webb City’s success on third and fourth down against Neosho — the Cardinals’ first three scoring plays all came on third or fourth down.
On a third-and-6 from the Neosho 30, the Cardinals scored on a 30-yard touchdown run by Devrin Weathers on their first possession.
On a fourth-and-4 from the Neosho 39, on their second possession, the Cardinals went ahead 14-0 on a Kade Hicks 39-yard TD run.
On a third-and-10 from the Neosho 39, on their third possession, Hicks connected with Cohl Vaden on a 39-yard TD pass and Webb City led 21-0 early in the second quarter.
Neosho, meanwhile, finished the first half with 14 yards of total offense and one first down.
Silver lining in a dark cloud
Neosho put together its only scoring drive in the fourth quarter, denying Webb City a shutout.
The Wildcats traveled 89 yards in 17 plays and 10 minutes, 9 seconds, with their drive capped off by a 20-yard TD pass from Gage Kelley to Brady Franklin. The Wildcats generated six first downs, highlighted by a 20-yard pass from Kelley to Weston Durman.
By comparison, Neosho ran nine offensive plays in the second half before its methodical scoring drive. The Wildcats tallied 18 offensive plays in the first half.
Neosho totaled 135 yards — 87 rushing, 48 passing — on the evening.
Around the Conference
The other four games Friday night in the COC were close (and exciting).
Joplin became the last unbeaten by holding on for that 56-55 victory, stopping Carthage shy of the end zone on the Tigers’ two-point conversion attempt late in regulation. It’s not very often a winning team surrenders over 600 yards of total offense and 36 first downs.
Joplin linebacker Holden Ledford stopped Tyler Mueller a yard shy on the conversion.
Joplin tallied 568 yards. Blake Tash passed for 235 yards and two TDs, while Isaiah Davis rushed for 241 yards and five TDs on 29 carries and Zach Westmoreland caught nine passes for 139 yards and two scores.
Carthage’s Patrick Carlton rushed for 251 yards and five TDs, while Mueller added 218 yards and three TDs.
Carl Junction prevailed 55-48 over Republic in another game that sounds more like a video game.
Republic quarterback Lucas Hayes alone totaled 480 yards — he passed for 236 yards and two scores and rushed for 246 yards on 30 carries. Hayes threw a pair of interceptions, however, both of which proved costly for the Tigers.
Both teams generated well over 500 yards of total offense.
Both the Nixa-Willard and Ozark-Branson games featured fewer points but proved to be exciting nonetheless, at least late in the game.
Nixa linebacker Steven Ward blocked Willard’s game-tying field goal attempt in the final minute and this effort sealed Nixa’s 10-7 victory.
The red zone woes for Branson started against Neosho and continued in Week 3 against Ozark, as the Pirates’ inability to cash in on three second-half possessions cost them in a 14-13 loss. Branson failed to score in the red zone three times after halftime against Neosho.