Headed to the ‘ship

Ryder Davis (2) celebrates the victory with assistant coach Adam Krol. (Photos by Steve Rackley)

Wyatt Woods (5) runs through a hole behind a block by Kanon Krol (8). Woods rushed for more than 100 yards in Republic’s win.

Running back Caide White (9) catches a pass and runs uncontested to the end zone, scoring what would turn out to be the game-winning touchdown.

Linebacker Kaleb Norman celebrates a big defensive play in the second half. Later, Norman would save the game with an interception to end Webb City’s final drive.

Defensive stand secures first championship shot for Republic
For the third week in a row, Republic’s defense made a game-saving stop. This time, they also made history. Sophomore Kaleb Norman intercepted a pass at the 17-yard line to end a potential game-winning drive by Webb City, helping the Tigers clinch a 21-20 victory in the state semifinals and earn their first-ever trip to the state championship game.
“The Lord has blessed us with a great group of kids that are willing to work and put in the time and effort, and I’m very thankful for it,” said coach Ryan Cornelsen, who also called out the community for its support of the team Saturday.
“I’ve been several places and played in state championships and big games, and this is by far the best I’ve seen,” said Cornelsen, who came to Republic from Kansas less than three years ago. “Any play that was big for us, it erupted, and it was awesome to be a part of. What a great experience for our kids.”
The game featured five lead changes, and ultimately a missed extra point after Webb City’s first touchdown swung the game in Republic’s favor.
The Tigers started the game with the most time-consuming drive of the season. They took nearly 11 minutes to move the ball 62 yards for a touchdown. The 19-play drive culminated in a one-yard touchdown run by quarterback Wyatt Woods on fourth and goal from inside the one-yard line.  
Webb City responded quickly with a touchdown of its own. On the very first play of the next drive, Webb City quarterback Gabe Johnson threw a 45-yard pass to Jackson Lucas for a score. That made the score 7-6, but Webb City’s Alex Dunne missed an extra point attempt, leaving the Tigers on top.
The Webb City defense forced a Republic punt and got the ball back, and the Cardinals took the lead on their next possession. A four-yard touchdown run by Omari Jackson made the score 12-7. A two-point conversion attempt was no good.
Republic responded to retake the lead on its next drive. The key play was a 63-yard touchdown pass from Woods to James Rexroat. Rexroat got behind double-team coverage and out-sprinted the Cardinal defensive backs to get to the end zone. Mason Cole’s extra point made the score 14-12, and that’s where it stood at halftime.
Webb City regained the lead to start the second half. The Cardinals drove 69 yards, scoring on a 43-yard touchdown run by Gabe Johnson. His two-point conversion made the score 20-14 in Webb City’s favor.
Both teams failed to score on their next possessions, but the Tigers put together the game-winning drive as the third quarter ended. Republic started on its own 11-yard line and drove 89 yards for the score. On a fourth down play from the nine-yard line, Republic lined up as if it intended to call a timeout. Instead, the Tigers snapped the ball and Wyatt Woods threw to his right, catching the Cardinal defense off guard. Caide White was wide open and caught the touchdown pass to make the score 21-20 as the third quarter ended.
Neither team scored in the fourth quarter, but there was plenty of excitement. Republic recovered an onside kick to start the quarter, when the ball deflected off a Webb City player and the Tigers jumped on it. After some confusion by the officials and long conversations with both coaches, the officials correctly awarded Republic the ball, but the Tigers were unable to turn the kick into a score. A fumble by Woods gave Webb City the ball at its own 38-yard line and set up the Cardinals for a potential game-winner. The Cardinals slowly moved the ball upfield, eventually advancing inside the Republic 20-yard line, but on a third down play, Republic linebacker Kendell Curbow pressured Johnson and forced an errant pass. Norman read the ball perfectly and intercepted it, ending the final scoring threat. Republic was able to run out the clock and win the game.
Republic and Webb City were almost evenly matched in every offensive category. Republic gained 283 yards and Webb City gained 278. Republic rushed for 193 yards and Webb City rushed for 199. The Tigers threw for 90 yards and Webb City threw for 79.
Woods led the Tigers in rushing with 130 yards on 28 carries and a touchdown. He also completed four-of-seven passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns. Rexroat had two catches for 74 yards and a touchdown. White caught a touchdown pass for nine yards and also had 21 yards rushing. Fullback Kanon Krol picked up 42 yards on the ground and had a seven-yard pass reception to go with it.
The loss ended Webb City’s season at 10-3. It’s the second year in a row Republic has sent the Cardinals packing to end the season. The Tigers advanced to the state championship game Friday at 7 p.m. against Cardinal Ritter. The Lions are undefeated and beat Cape Girardeau Central 52-22 in their semifinal Saturday.
“I told them they’ve definitely lit a spark in the community, and if they win this one, it will be a flame,” Cornelsen said after the game. “They’ve done that and created a buzz around town, and our community’s doing a great job of supporting our young people, and I couldn’t be any prouder to be a part of it.”

Basketball schedules changed to accommodate state football
The Republic Invitational Tournament will begin a day early to allow Republic players to travel to Columbia for the state championship football game Friday. Park Hill South and Ozark will begin the tournament with a game at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 29. Springdale, Ark., and Hillcrest will play at 5:30 p.m. Republic meets Rogers, Ark., at 7 p.m., and Liberty and Rolla finish the evening at 8:30 p.m.
The consolation bracket games will be played first on Thursday, with the winner’s bracket semifinals to follow.
Saturday’s games will begin at 11 a.m. No matter the outcome of the first two nights, Republic’s game will be played last, at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, because Republic students will be arriving back late from the state championship football game Friday night. Details of the Saturday schedule will be released after games end Thursday.
The Republic girls are playing in a tournament at Willard. Their second game has been moved from Friday to Thursday for the same reason.



Lawrence County Record

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