By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
JOPLIN – Six weeks ago, Joplin’s first foray into Central Ozark Conference play wasn’t going well.
The Eagles had suffered two-straight defeats by at least 20 points and sat at 1-2 on the season.
They’ve been unstoppable since.
Joplin scored touchdowns on its first seven possessions and rolled over Carl Junction 49-13 at Junge Field Friday night, winning its sixth-straight game in the process.
“Anytime you get a win in this conference it’s a big deal,” Joplin coach Curtis Jasper said. “The football that’s being played in this area with the five schools in the Joplin area is really good and they’re all something, such tough matchups. We’re happy to get this one tonight.”
Joplin, 7-2, needed barely two minutes to open the scoring when junior Zach Westmoreland took a screen pass 35 yards for a touchdown. The Eagles led 21-0 before Carl Junction got on the scoreboard, with Westmoreland and junior Isaiah Davis each scoring on 2-yard runs. The third touchdown came after the Eagles missed a 41-yard field goal attempt and Carl Junction was flagged for roughing the kicker.
The Bulldogs, 4-5, stopped the bleeding when senior Joe Kennedy took a snap as the quarterback and scored on a nine-yard run with 9:39 left in the first half.
Carl Junction caught Joplin by surprise moments later when the Bulldogs recovered a pooch kick at the Eagles’ 39-yard line. Two plays later, Carl Junction had the ball first-and-5 at the Joplin 12. The Bulldogs settled for a 30-yard field goal attempt and missed.
“That was huge keeping them off the board there because we were able to score after the half and get the turbo clock going,” Jasper said. “That was a huge stop there.”
Two minutes later, Joplin went up 28-7 when Westmoreland scored on a spectacular 30-yard run, initially running left then crossing through the heart of the defense and diving to the right pylon.
The Eagles added more in the final minute of the second quarter. With the ball at the 30, junior quarterback Blake Tash connected with junior receiver James Boyd in the back of the end zone. Junior Garrett Landis’ extra point made it 35-7 going into halftime.
The turbo clock went into effect after Davis outran the defense down the home sideline for a 76-yard touchdown with 8:18 left in the third quarter. Joplin’s lead grew to 49-7 when backup quarterback Zech Stayton, a junior, scored on a 7-yard run at the 2:12 mark.
Carl Junction’s final points came early in the fourth quarter when Kennedy scored on a 52-yard run.
The extra point was blocked, which preserved a six-game streak in which Joplin has allowed 13 or fewer points. Friday was the first time in five games the Eagles allowed more than nine.
Joplin outgained Carl Junction by 201 yards and had a huge advantage on the ground, where the Eagles rushed for 307 yards. Davis had the biggest night with 186 yards and two scores on just 14 carries. Sophomore Nathan Glades added 70 yards on 12 carries and Westmoreland rushed for 44 yards and two scores on five carries.
Tash was 10-of-14 passing for 162 yards and two scores. Westmoreland had three receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown.
“Obviously the seniors played fantastic tonight as did the whole team,” Jasper said. “We start an all senior line and I think they set the tone and do a fantastic job.”
Carl Junction coach Doug Buckmaster concurred.
“They’re a big, physical, athletic football team and they’re a very experienced senior-led team,” he said. “We’re a young football team at this point. Our better days are ahead of us. Defensively it comes down to tackling and we did a very poor job of tackling tonight.”
“We did not play physical enough to be successful in this game tonight,” he said. “We’ll be back. Things will change. There’ll be a next time. It may be a completely different ballgame the next year. We’ll see. Credit them, they played well. They’ve got a good football team.”
Carl Junction was led by Kennedy’s 122 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.
“Joe had another good night,” Buckmaster said. “Joe makes plays. As Joe goes, CJ goes right now I guess you could say.”
It was a disappointing homecoming for Buckmaster, who coached Joplin for six seasons from 2005 to 2010. He won 34 games with the Eagles. Now in his sixth season at Carl Junction, he’s already won 53.
“Our kids just need to remember what it felt like,” he said. “They need to take this and remember what it felt like and remember Joplin’s reaction to winning and the feeling they appeared to have over there as opposed to the feeling that we had. Again things can change in a hurry. Hopefully we’ll put ourselves in that position next year.”