JOPLIN — The Neosho Wildcats matched their highest points scored total this season, but it was not enough offense during a 56-21 loss Friday night against the Joplin Eagles at Junge Stadium.
Joplin built a 28-0 lead with a dominant first quarter in every phase of the game. The Wildcats played more competitive football the last three quarters.
Neosho, 1-5 overall and Central Ozark Conference, returns to the road in Week 7 against conference and district rival Carl Junction (2-4). The Bulldogs are coming off a 21-14 loss to Nixa.
Joplin, 6-0 overall and COC, takes on 4-2 Ozark on the road. The Tigers close out their regular season with consecutive games against Joplin, Webb City, and Carthage, three schools that reached the state semifinals last season (Joplin in Class 6, Carthage in Class 5, Webb City in Class 4).
— The Eagles scored their first touchdown with only 38 seconds expired from the clock. Joplin sprinted 67 yards in 32 seconds: Nathan Glades caught 29- and 25-yard passes, then senior quarterback Blake Tash scored on a 13-yard touchdown run.
The Wildcats generated one first down on their opening drive, but Joplin recovered Gage Kelley’s fumble at the Neosho 36.
Four plays later, Tash hit Zach Westmoreland on a 22-yard TD pass for a 14-0 lead only 2:54 in.
Kelley rushed for seven yards on Neosho’s second possession, but the Eagles defense stacked up Quincey Willis and Bret Camerer for no gain on second and third down, forcing Kelley to punt.
Joplin’s third possession produced a TD almost instantly: 49 yards in two plays with a 24-yard TD pass from Tash to Westmoreland.
Neosho’s third drive ended in another three-and-out.
Isaiah Davis capped off Joplin’s fourth possession with a 3-yard TD run.
The Wildcats began finding their first success on their fourth drive that started in the first and carried over into the second quarter, highlighted by a 41-yard Sam Cook reception and a Cook 15-yard TD reception on fourth down at 10:36 of the second quarter.
— The Wildcats moved the football more often than in the previous three weeks against Webb City, Carthage, and Nixa, a positive sign moving forward.
Cook’s touchdown reception on fourth down started ominously with a bad snap to Kelley, but the chaos from the broken play benefited the Wildcats as Kelley managed to avoid being tackled and found a wide open Cook, who did the rest.
Joplin took a 49-7 lead late in the second quarter on a Glades 5-yard TD run.
Rather than just take a knee before halftime, Neosho decided to go for a long bomb when taking over possession at their own 49.
A Joplin defender deflected Kelley’s pass and Willis caught the ricochet for a 51-yard TD pass with 1.9 ticks remaining in the half.
Neosho reserve quarterback Racey Shandley closed out the scoring with a 10-yard TD run.
— Joplin senior kicker Garrett Landis made every extra point Friday night and his sixth of eight on the evening provided him a career milestone.
Landis’ 179th career point surpassed Alan Cockrell’s 178 points for the most points scored by a Joplin kicker. Cockrell scored his 178 on 154 extra points and eight field goals.
Cockrell enjoyed a collegiate career playing both baseball and football at the University of Tennessee and the San Francisco Giants selected the outfielder with the ninth overall pack in the 1984 MLB Draft. He played professionally for 13 years with five different organizations before the Colorado Rockies called up Cockrell during the 1996 season. His first MLB hit came against Atlanta Braves and future Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Glavine. Cockrell retired after the 1996 season.
Cockrell has enjoyed a successful coaching career in the pros and he most recently served as the hitting coach for the New York Yankees.
— Wildcat Nation raised $900 for the family of Kadin Roberts-Day through purchasing #63 KRD T-shirts. Neosho coaches, cheerleaders, and fans wore their shirts Friday night.
— Former Neosho High standout and Pittsburg State sophomore receiver Bryce Murphy enjoyed the best game of his collegiate career so far during Saturday’s 56-14 rout of Lincoln at historic Carnie Smith Stadium.
Murphy caught seven passes for 114 yards and one touchdown, a 36-yard pass from Mak Sexton. Murphy has caught a TD pass in three straight games.
On the season, Murphy has 16 receptions for 200 yards and three scores.
Pitt State (5-0) plays one of its biggest games of the regular season in Week 6, against their arch nemesis Northwest Missouri at Arrowhead Stadium. The Gorillas the the Bearcats return to Arrowhead Stadium for the first time since 2013.