By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Look closer at that (previous) 0-4 record, and you’d see a team with three losses by a combined 14 points.
So that’s why the Republic Tigers entered Friday night’s game at Willard feeling confident and motivated.
“The close losses were (frustrating), but we knew this was the game to come back,” said Republic junior running back Louis Wallace. “We had a (good) feeling and we came out here and did everything we could.”
Republic put together its best offensive performance of the season and defeated Willard 27-20, spoiling the black and white Tigers’ homecoming festivities. Republic rushed for over 300 yards as a team in scoring a season-high 27 points.
“Very pleased with the effort tonight. There was a lot of effort,” said Republic coach Dustin Baldwin. “We’ve been focusing on giving max effort and tonight I thought we did that in a lot of places.”
Republic gashed Willard with the running back tandem of juniors Louis Wallace (21 carries for 129 yards) and Riley Sigman (16 carries for 109 yards and two touchdowns).
“That’s the first time we’ve started those two guys together,” Baldwin said. “It was good to get both those guys on the field at the same time.”
Wallace went 25 yards to the endzone on a catch-and-run that give Republic a 27-12 lead late in the third quarter.
“I was honestly surprised (at the pass) and it kind of scared me, but as soon as I caught the ball and hit the ground, I knew I had to get in that endzone,” Wallace said.
Willard responded with a 2-yard touchdown run from Reece Dawson. The ensuing two-point conversion cut Republic’s lead to 27-20.
Things got a bit crazy in the next few minutes.
Republic fumbled the ensuing kickoff, but Willard turned it back over to the orange and black Tigers two plays later.
Republic chewed up some clock on its ensuing drive but would give the ball back to Willard on downs. Back-to-back penalties forced Willard into a 4th-and-long from its own 22, and Willard elected to punt.
Republic ran out the clock with first-down runs from Sigman and Wallace. Unlike the losses to Branson (19-13), Nixa (17-13) and Carl Junction (14-10), Republic finally prevailed in a close game.
“We’ve been right in some games,” Baldwin said. “There were so many contributions tonight. So many guys who made a play when we needed it.”
Ethan Thompson led Willard with 80 rushing yards. Garrett Rice added 62 yards on the ground and a pair of first-quarter touchdowns for Willard, which also scored its most points in a game this season.
After falling behind 12-7, Republic scored three unanswered touchdowns. The first one came on a 44-yard touchdown pass to Cam Flood, who caught a short slant pass and broke free.
Both teams committed three turnovers.
Republic (1-4) hosts Ozark next week. Willard (2-3) hosts Webb City.
“Going 0-4 and then coming out and giving it everything we got, it means a lot to get this win,” Wallace said. “We knew this was a (winnable) game and we just pushed for it. We knew it was a special night for (Willard), with it being their homecoming night.”
Republic 27, Willard 20
Republic 14 7 6 0 — 27
Willard 12 0 0 8 — 20
Republic – Sigman 27 run (Flippin kick)
Willard – Rice 1 run (kick failed)
Willard – Rice 12 run (run failed)
Republic – Flood 44 catch from Hayes (Flippin kick)
Republic – Sigman 1 run (Flippin kick)
Republic – Wallace 25 catch from Hayes (kick failed)
Willard – Dawson 2 run (Swadley catch from Dawson)
Unofficial stat leaders
Passing: Hayes 8-for-14 for 117 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT
Rushing: Wallace 21 carries for 129 yards; Sigman 16 carries for 109 yards and 2 TDs; Hayes 9 carries for 40 yards; Duvall 2 carries for 24 yards
Receiving: Flood 3 catches for 52 yards and 1 TD; Duvall 4 catches for 40 yards
Passing: Dawson 8-for-16 for 112 yards and 1 INT
Rushing: Thompson 11 carries for 80 yards; Rice 14 carries for 62 yards and 2 TDs; Dawson 12 carries for 51 yards and 1 TD;
Receiving: Grayer 3 catches for 54 yards; 2 catches for 34 yards