By Jeff Kessinger (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Saturday, for one day only, Nixa head coach John Perry is prepared to break the rules. He’s thinking about getting a bite to eat in Ozark.
Perry and the Eagles, now 6-0 and ranked No. 2 in Class 6, worked up an appetite in their 35-7 win over Ozark in the Backyard Brawl Friday night. It was Perry’s first experience with the Christian County rivalry.
“I don’t go eat in Ozark for a reason. I’m going to pay my taxes in Nixa, I’m going to eat in Nixa,” he said. “I might eat in tomorrow, but that’ll be the only time.”
Ozark, No. 8 in Class 5, came ready to play, taking the opening kickoff and marching 53 yards to the Nixa 20. They couldn’t take it any further, though, stalling out on 4th-and-5. It was the Tigers’ best look at the endzone in the first half.
“We knew getting points would be tough tonight, so you don’t want to miss your opportunities,” Ozark coach Chad Depee said. “(Nixa) did a good job controlling the game. I thought we had some spots where we could get something going, but they capitalized on our mistakes. They’re a good team and that’s what good teams do.”
Nixa’s defense was stout after that drive, surrendering just 46 yards the rest of the half and keeping Ozark on its own side of the midfield stripe.
“You have trouble simulating that offense in practice, so it normally takes a possession or two to see it live and get it figured out,” Perry said. “We used to run that type of offense back in the day and (Ozark does) it as good as anybody I’ve seen.”
Nixa put the game away with a frenzied third quarter. Sophomore running back Ramone Green scored three touchdowns in less than 10 minutes to turn a 14-0 edge into an insurmountable 35-0 lead.
“It feels great getting touchdowns, but even if I didn’t score a win’s a win,” Green said.
A 25-yard connection between sophomore quarterback Austin McCracken and Smith Wheeler set up the first score, a 5-yard run up the middle. An interception by Kolyn Eli, returned to the Ozark 2, set up the second.
Green did it by himself for the third score — his fourth touchdown of the game — racing 21 yards down the right sideline to get Nixa into Ozark territory. Seven plays later he weaved a serpentine path the Ozark defense for a 22-yard score to put the game out of reach.
“If there’s a better sophomore running back in the state, I’d like to see him,” Perry said. “Ramone gets the credit, but the offensive line has gotten better and better and better. They continue to give him holes and he does a great job of making the first guy miss.”
The Eagles’ skill players agree.
“They’re getting better every week. They’re a great group of guys,” McCracken said. He also gave credit to the Nixa defense. “We have one of the best defenses and they make our job a lot easier. After going up against them in practice every day, the teams we play against are nothing compared to them.”
Green finished with 125 yards on 21 carries. He also caught three passes for 28 yards, sometimes lining up as a wide receiver.
“I like it. I’ll do whatever the coach wants me to do to help this team win,” he said.
McCracken, sharing time with senior Reid Potts went 8-for-13 passing for 142 yards and a score. Wheeler led Nixa’s receivers with 4 catches for 91 yards.
Nixa opened the scoring late in the first quarter. McCracken connected with Jackson Bray on a 22-yard strike. Bray, on the left hash, caught the ball, slipped a tackler and sprinted into the endzone for the 7-0 lead.
The Eagles took advantage of a short field for their second score. A 39-yard pass to Wheeler set up a 5-yard touchdown run by Green to put Nixa in front 14-0 at the half.
“I’m really excited about where our kids are and where our program is,” Perry said. “These guys will enjoy this tonight and tomorrow we’ll go back to work. Our goal is to go 1-0 every single day. We’ve got to put this behind us and move on.”
Jacob Kronenbusch led the way for Ozark with 121 yards rushing on 13 carries. He bolted for an 85-yard touchdown to get the Tigers on the board in the fourth quarter.
“We’ll lick our wounds and get back to work,” Depee said. “I’m still proud of my kids and love my kids. We’re still a good team, this just wasn’t our best night.”
Ozark (5-1) visits Neosho Oct. 9, while Nixa takes a trip to Webb City. The Cardinals are No. 2 in Class 5.
NHS 7 7 21 0 — 35
OHS 0 0 0 7 — 7
1:14 — Nixa: Jackson Bray 22 pass from Austin McCracken (Kaleb James kick), 7-0
5:31 — Nixa: Ramone Green 5 run (James kick), 14-0
10:22 — Nixa: Green 5 run (James kick), 21-0
8:10 — Nixa: Green 1 run (James kick), 28-0
:41.8 — Nixa: Green 22 run (James kick), 35-0
11:37 — Ozark: Jacob Kronenbusch 85 run (Jace Easley kick), 35-7