Republic Sports 10-18-2023

Jenna Belcher celebrates after sliding home safely with a first-inning run during the district semifinal. (by David Brazeal)

Wyatt Woods fights for yardage during the second quarter of Republic's home loss to Nixa (by David Brazeal)

Republic honored seven seniors on Senior Night: manager Sara Laster, Brooklyn Claxton, Aubrey Haynes, Lexi Mitchell, Rilynn Finley, Addison Fanning, and Alaina Norman. (by David Brazeal)

Republic softball suffers season-ending walkoff loss
Republic’s softball team ended its season in the district semifinals Saturday, losing 5–4 to Nixa. Nixa won the game with a walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Republic had 10 base hits to Nixa’s six, and made fewer fielding errors, but the Lady Tigers couldn’t capitalize on multiple scoring chances.
“We played really well. We played hard, we played fast, we outplayed Nixa in every aspect of the game except for the score tonight. We just came up on the short end of the stick,” said coach Lee Dishman. “Our girls played with pride and showed a lot of resilience throughout the season. And it showed tonight — we should have won that game, but sometimes things happen.”
Republic built a three-run lead to start the game, beginning with two runs in the top of the first. Jenna Belcher singled, stole second, and scored on an error to make it 1–0. A sacrifice fly by Annabelle Gerhardt-Hobbs made the score 2–0. And the Lady Tigers scored another run in the third inning on a triple by Belcher and a Nixa error, pushing its lead to 3–0.
Nixa scored in the bottom of the second to cut the lead to 3–1, but Republic got the run back on an RBI by Sammi Watson in the top of the fifth inning.
The Lady Eagles scored three runs in the fifth, tying the score off Republic starter Piper Dishman. Republic failed to score in the top of the seventh, setting up Nixa’s winning rally. Paige Garetson walked leading off, and Rylee Harper worked a nine-pitch walk to put runners at first and second. After Republic relief pitcher Kara Goeke struck out the next batter, Jordan Phillips singled home the winning run to end the game.
Republic ended its season with a 19–14 record. The game was the last appearance as Lady Tigers for three seniors — Belcher, Gracie Woods, and Ali Poulson.
Field goal as time expires delivers win to Nixa
Jordan Cribbs kicked a 25-yard field goal for Nixa as time ran out, giving the Eagles a 31–28 win over Republic and securing a Central Ozark Conference championship for Nixa. The last-second score was fitting for a game that was close throughout, with both teams leading at least once, and neither team leading by more than seven points.
“I thought we played really well. I thought we executed well,” Republic coach Ryan Cornelsen said. “We had to take some weird chances and do some things that we don’t always do, and it worked. But the difference? Three points at the end.”
A crucial 4th-and-9 play in the final three minutes helped Nixa keep its game-winning drive alive when it looked like the Republic defense would get a stop and set up a chance for a winning drive of its own. Earlier in the second half, a Republic fumble — the only turnover of the game — had helped Nixa regain the advantage after the Tigers had gotten a defensive stop.
“They got that last fourth down, and it was a big play by them,” Cornelsen said. “I can’t take anything away from our kids. Man, they played their hearts out, and that was a great high school football game, a great environment. And they rose to the occasion and battled. We just came up short, and that’s part of athletics.”
Wyatt Woods ran for two touchdowns, threw one touchdown pass, and caught another. Woods’ touchdown catch came at a pivotal point in the fourth quarter, and it was Republic’s last score of the night. Trailing 28–21, the Tigers faced a 4th-and-4 from the six-yard line. Woods took the snap, pitched it to Daniel Phillips. Phillips ran to the left and tossed it back to James Rexroat, who tossed a pass to a wide-open Woods in the end zone. Woods made a sliding catch, and Mason Cole’s fourth extra point of the night tied the score, 28–28.
After playing so well and coming up short anyway, Cornelsen told his team not to dwell on the loss because there are better things coming.
“I told them my vision for our program is much bigger than that game. My vision is (going) deep in the playoffs and playing teams from not around this area. And if they continue to get better and continue to work, there’s bigger games to come,” he said. “So don’t make this game bigger than it was. Our goal is districts, and trying to win that, and trying to go beyond that. And if they can do that, those games will be twice the size of this game.”
Nixa led 21–14 at halftime. Republic’s first-half scores came on a 52-yard pass from Woods to Rexroat and a one-yard run by Woods. In the second half, Republic scored on another short TD run by Woods and the pass from Rexroat to Woods.
Republic out-gained Nixa 301 yards to 269. The Tigers had 173 rushing yards and 128 passing yards. Woods rushed for 85 yards and two touchdowns. He completed five of seven passes for 129 yards and a touchdown. Rexroat had three catches for 104 yards and a touchdown. He was also 1-for-1 passing with a touchdown.
Republic honors volleyball seniors in home win
Republic earned its 23rd volleyball win to close the regular season, honored seven seniors who’ve made big contributions to the program, and got contributions from many of those seniors along the way. The Lady Tigers beat Carthage at home Thursday, 25–14, 25–13, 25–17.
Before the match, Republic recognized six senior players — Brooklyn Claxton, Aubrey Haynes, Lexi Mitchell, Rilynn Finley, Addison Fanning, and Alaina Norman — and senior manager Sara Laster. Coach Allison Davis said she’ll have a hard time replacing them.
“It’s hard to put into words what this senior class has meant to this volleyball program. The amount of time that I’ve had with them and what they have dedicated to the program to make it better is indescribable and priceless,” Davis said. “I hate losing seniors every single year, but this class is probably hurting me just a little bit more than any other class. It’s a big class. It’s a very talented class.”
Davis added the versatility of the senior group is something that stands out about them, because they each bring different leadership styles and gifts to the team.
“There are so many of them, and they bring very different things to the team, and I think that’s what’s going to be so hard to replace,” she said. “A lot of them are vocal leaders. A lot of them are leaders… by example. Some are encouragers, or they bring positivity, passion, and competitiveness.”
Seniors made big contributions to the win. Finley led the team with 26 kills. Haynes had a team-high 11 digs. Claxton and Norman had three service aces apiece. Claxton also led the team with 26 assists. Junior Nevaeh Ghan led the team with three blocks.
Republic (23–5) opens district play at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 21 against Glendale (20–6).
Eight-team COC forges ahead
Branson and Carl Junction have left the Central Ozark Conference (COC) to compete in a new league, the Ozark Mountain Conference. That leaves eight teams in the league for the 2024–25 school year, and remaining member schools have decided to move forward with the existing slate. Republic and Willard are the only two original members of the COC who remain. Nixa, Ozark, Webb City, Carthage, Joplin, and Neosho are also members of the league who will return in 2024-25.
Republic activities director Trevyor Fisher said details are still being worked out, but a scheduling agreement between the COC and the Ozark may allow for crossover games between those two leagues to fill an undetermined number of weeks on the football schedule.


Lawrence County Record

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