Willard, Mo. (For OzarksSportsZone.com) -- Willard and Neosho met on a sunny, soggy field at Tiger Stadium on Saturday, 19 hours later than they had planned, thanks to hurricane force winds that pounded the Ozarks Friday night. The extra wait was worth it for Willard as the Tigers defeated the Wildcats 26-13.
Neosho opened the game with a 16-play push and two first downs but were hindered by their own mistakes. After two penalties—for holding and for an illegal block—the Tigers gained possession at their own 18 yard line.
After a scoreless first quarter, Willard opened the second quarter with a 27-yard touchdown burst by wide receiver Codey White.
“I was really proud of our guys up front. We dominated the line of scrimmage with our five senior linemen,” said Willard coach Brock Roweton.
The Wildcats failed to achieve a first down on their next drive and Tigers regained possession at the 49 yard line.
The Tigers’ offense dominated during the next 9 plays, with four carries totaling 46 yards by running back Tanner Moore. Tigers senior Luke He completed the drive with a 3-yard carry into the endzone to end the 1st quarter at 12-0. The Tigers attempted a 2-point conversion pass, but it was incomplete.
In the second quarter, Neosho quarterback Justin McKee had an apparent 70-yard touchdown run but the play was called back.
“They lined up in an illegal formation and didn’t have enough men on the line of scrimmage. We saw it from the get-go. We were telling them from the start. You’ve got to have enough men on the line of scrimmage from the start; otherwise, you can’t run a play,” said Roweton.
The Wildcats did not bounce back from this crushing penalty and ended their possession after 8 plays and a punt.
Late in the first half, the Wildcats were poised to score at the Willard 1 yard line with 11 seconds on the clock. But Willard held Neosho away from paydirt to preserve the 12-0 lead.
“Our defense did a good job. In the first half, we were giving up a few yeards but never breaking. They did a good job keeping them out of the end zone,” said Roweton
Tigers quarterback Justin Atchison agreed.
“I feel like our offensive line really dominated up front. They got movement on their D-line all night long. Our defense really stepped up and played big for us,” said Atchison.
The Tigers offense dominated as they opened the third quarter with a string of six first downs in 13 plays, placing them at the 10 yard line for 1st and goal. Tanner Moore capped the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run to make it 19-0.
“Our backs did a really good job finding holes today, and then running just yards after contacts. We’ve reached that with those guys; they’ve got big backs. They were able to get hit, and keep pulling forward for three, four, five more yards,” said Roweton.
Neosho, trying to find a place on the scoreboard, finally did so in the fourth quarter with a 78-yard completion to Ryan Taylor that made it 19-6. Willard answered with a 46-yard TD run by Justin Atchison.
“I just want to thank my linemen for the great holes that we’ve had. I couldn’t do it by myself. It’s really great to have the team that I have. It’s not just me, it’s the whole team. We all did our own jobs. I just had to do what I was instructed to do, and it all worked out well,” said He.
Willard had nearly 300 rushing yards as a team.
“We just have to capitalize on opportunities. We did do that some, but we didn’t do it consistently enough,” said Neosho coach Jared Schoonover.
Willard travels to Nixa next week while Neosho plays Branson at home.
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