By Scott Vanscoy (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Nixa Eagles played host to the Republic Tigers in a match of Central Ozark Conference foes on Friday night. Both teams were coming off opening night losses and looking for their first victory of the season. Republic mounted a furious comeback, only to fall short, as Nixa held on to a 17-13 win in a game where the defense dominated.
Nixa took the opening drive down the field and scored when senior Sean Sample ran it in from four yards out, giving Nixa an early 7-0 lead. Republic answered at 5:05 when junior Louis Wallace broke through tackles, scoring from eight yards out. With two minutes left to go in the quarter, Nixa answered back when Sample scampered in from 36 yards, giving the Eagles a 14-7 lead.
“I was really excited about how we came out, we started out really good, scored two early,” said Sample. “I thought we were really flying, then I don’t know, we just kind of stopped. We came to a hold, but our defense was really pushing, really keeping us in the game. Our offense was resilient; even though we weren’t getting yards, we were still fighting. I’m so proud of our team’s effort tonight, couldn’t have done it without my teammates. It was a great game to be a part of, I hope we see them again later in the season. That was so fun.”
Nixa head coach Richard Rehagen stated that Sample should be worn out after this game.
“Sean Sample does just about everything, he does a lot for us,” said Rehagen. “He’s a really good defender, good running back, kicks for us. I know he did a lot, I know he’s tired right now, he had a heck of a game, played really hard tonight. He’s in every phase of our game, he did a nice job.”
In the second quarter the defenses took over. Both sides were forced to punt several times in the quarter and penalties began to accumulate. Sample had a touchdown run called back due to penalties. Republic was forced to start a drive on the five-yard line and Logan Ayers intercepted the ball with one minute remaining in the half. The score at halftime remained stalled at 14-7.
Third quarter, at the 7:15 mark, Republic’s Lucas Hayes connected with Cam Flood on a 40-yard touchdown pass, giving the Tigers a chance to tie the game. Nixa’s Ayers blocked the extra point, keeping Republic at 13. Nixa used Sample to pound the ball on the ground and when they were within striking distance they kicked a 25-yard field goal to put them up 17-13. Ayers’ blocked extra point would come back to haunt the Tigers.
“Man, tonight was a battle,” said Ayers. “We had some offensive issues, but we handled it. I give all of my credit to the linemen, both offensive and defensive, they just played a phenomenal game, they worked their butts off. Nixa is used to playing a little bit more defense than offense, right? We know we’ve got to be tough, we condition every day, we work our butts off in practice just for moments like this. I’m here to make plays, I do what coach says, he always puts me in the best position possible and I just do what I can.”
The fourth quarter started off with both defenses forcing the other to punt. Nixa had another Sample touchdown called back due to a holding call. Republic would sack the Nixa quarterback two times in a row and then Nixa had two penalties, putting them at 3rd down and 38. At 5:15, Nixa was forced to punt and the Republic Tigers still had a chance. The Tigers could not mount an offense, however, and were forced by the Eagles to punt with 3:18 left.
Nixa was content to run the ball but when Sample gained no yardage on two carries, Republic called a time out. After the time out, Republic’s Nolan White intercepted a Nixa pass and returned it to the 15-yard line. Republic’s first two plays gained eight yards, putting them at 3rd and short. Wallace was stopped on a run play on 3rd down. Republic called a time out, making it fourth down and short. Nixa’s defense had stood strong the entire game and would be no different here. On the ensuing play, Republic muffed the snap, causing a broken play where they did not get the first down, turning the ball over to Nixa. With just :55 left to play, Nixa only needed to take a knee to seal the victory.
“Our defense played pretty darn good,” said Republic coach Dustin Baldwin. “They were put in some bad spots but they held their ground. I can’t say enough about our defense. Offensively, we’ve got to make more plays, that’s all there is to it. We’re having opportunities, we have the game on the line, and we just drop it. A couple plays here and there, that’s what these games come down to and if you don’t make the plays you walk away with an empty feeling in your gut.”
Nixa’s big crowd stayed the whole night as it was a nail-biter the entire way.
“I think both teams made our share of mistakes and some plays,” said Rehagen. “There were penalties for us, for sure; I don’t even know the number right now but it was a lot. I thought our kids did hang in there, made a few plays, made enough plays. It was good to get a win tonight.”
Republic 13, Nixa 17
Republic 7 – 0 – 6 – 0 13
Nixa 14- 0 – 3 – 0 17
Nixa—Sean Sample, 4-yard TD run (PAT good)
Republic—Louis Wallace, 8-yard TD run (PAT good)
Nixa—Sample, 36-yard TD run (PAT good)
Republic—Cam Flood, 40-yard TD pass from Lucas Hayes (PAT blocked)
Nixa—Sample, 25-yard TD field goal