Neosho spoils Senior Night with final-play victory

For just a second, it looked like Republic and Neosho would be going to overtime. Instead, Neosho quarterback Gage Kelley spun off a pile of defenders at the goal line and fell into the end zone, giving the Wildcats a 34-28 win.
Republic lost three fumbles that contributed to the loss. One of them, on the Tigers’ opening drive, resulted in a 73-yard fumble return for a touchdown by
Neosho’s Tristan Linders to give Neosho an early lead. Before that, Republic had dominated the early moments of the game, easily stopping Neosho’s first offensive drive to force a punt, then marching down the field toward an opening touchdown. But Linders’ return switched the momentum and Republic never regained control.
Another fumble inside Neosho’s 10 yard line
stopped what looked like a near certain Republic touchdown. The ball rolled into the end zone, where a Neosho player recovered, ending the Tigers’ scoring threat.
“That’s pretty uncharacteristic of us. We haven’t done that all year,” coach Dustin Baldwin said of the fumbles. “It’s unfortunate, obviously, them getting six points off the first one when we three-and-out them to start the game, then we’re driving, and then out of nowhere, we dropped the ball and they picked it up, and we don’t make a tackle and they run it 70 yards for a touchdown.”
Republic’s first touchdown came at the end of an eight-play drive, when Riley Sigman scored from five yards out to tie the game 7-7 in the first quarter.
Neosho took a 13-7 lead with an eight-play, 66-yard drive, but Republic respond-
ed with a 69-yard drive of its own, ending with another five-yard run by Sigman. That made the score 14-13 Republic.
Neosho regained the lead on the next possession, driving 76 yards in four plays and scoring on a 36-yard run by Kelley. The two-point conversion made it 21-14.
Republic scored on its first possession of the second half to tie the game 21- 21. A 14-yard touchdown run by Lucas Hayes evened the score with 7:47 remain- ing in the third quarter.
The game stayed tied until Neosho scored with 9:20 remaining in the fourth quarter on a three-yard touchdown run by Drayke Perry to make the score 28- 21. Their go-ahead touch-down came on the drive following Republic’s fumble into the end zone.
Republic tied the score with a 69-yard drive over
six plays, ending with a two-yard touchdown run by Hayes. That set up Neosho’s game-winning drive.
Neosho’s winning drive consumed the final 4:45, and it ended on Kelley’s second effort at the goal line. Republic’s defensive front got a strong push at the snap, but Kelley stayed on his feet after hitting a wall of bodies, spun to his left, and fell into the end zone for the game-winner after time had expired. The winning score was set up by a 35-yard pass from Kelley to Quincey Willis with two seconds remaining.
Republic racked up 399 total yards of offense compared to 384 for Neosho. Lucas Hayes completed seven of 11 passes for 104 yards and rushed the ball 20 times for 139 yards.
Republic travels to Bran- son for the first game of the district tournament Friday.


Lawrence County Record

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