Tigers Gamble, Hit the Jackpot at Nixa

Wyatt Woods (5) hands the ball to Kanon Krol (8) during overtime.  Krol would score a touchdown, setting up the two-point conversion that won the game. (Photo by steve Rackley)

Republic players stream on to the field to celebrate the overtime win at Nixa. (Photo by Steve Rackley)

Republic needed to play a nearly perfect game to knock off the state-ranked Nixa Eagles (Class 6, No. 4) — and the Tigers did just that Friday in Nixa. Republic stayed with the Eagles all night, taking big chances and matching them score for score until a two-point conversion in overtime clinched an upset victory for the Tigers, 36-35.

The overtime period started with Republic winning the coin flip and choosing to possess the ball second. Both teams get an opportunity to score, starting with the ball at the 25-yard line. Nixa scored on its very first play — a 25-yard run by Ramone Green — and finished with an extra point to take a 35-28 lead. But that only opened the door for Republic to take a big final gamble that paid off with the win.

The Tigers methodically punched the ball toward the goal line, taking eight plays before they scored on a one-yard run by fullback Kanon Krol. Trailing 35-34, Republic could have kicked an extra point to tie the score and force a second overtime, but that didn't cross coach Ryan Cornelsen's mind.

"Even if we were offense first, we were going to go for two, so it worked out good that we were defense first," Cornelsen said.

Quarterback Wyatt Woods lined up under center, took the snap from Eli Weaver, and rolled to his right. Nixa's defense, which had struggled to stop Republic's run game, was caught off-guard when Woods rolled to his right. He floated a pass to a wide-open Gunner Ellison in the end zone, and the Tigers had pulled off one of their biggest upsets ever.

"Coach always preaches not to over-celebrate. But there's no one other than our parents and our friends that expect us to come out here and beat this team," Ellison said. "They're a great team all around, so for us to go out there and to perform on all cylinders on offense and really be untouchable, it's incredible. It's what we put the work in for. It's just a great time."

The gamble in overtime was indicative of Republic's approach all evening. The Tigers attempted seven fourth-down conversions and achieved a first down all seven times. They converted three fourth downs on the same drive in the first half — a drive that included 19 plays and consumed more than ten minutes on the clock before Krol scored his first of three touchdowns. That TD put Republic up 14-7. The Tigers had scored earlier on a Connor Sandridge five-yard run, set up by a 52-yard run by Ellison.

But all night long, every time one team scored, the other answered. Republic got the ball first, so led for much of the first half. The teams were tied 14-14 at halftime.

In the second half, Nixa took the lead 21-14 before Republic tied it on a 16-yard pass from Woods to Ellison. Nixa led again 28-21, but Krol's second touchdown tied the score.

The biggest defensive play of the night came near the end of the fourth quarter. Nixa drove the ball inside Republic's 10-yard line and had a first and goal. But Cooper Douglas tackled Ramone Green for no gain on first down, and Nixa gained short yardage on second and third downs. On fourth down, Aidan Gregory streaked into the backfield to pressure Nixa quarterback Connor Knatcal, forcing an errant pass that ended the potential game-winning drive and setting up the overtime.

"I couldn't be more proud of them. I told the kids, it's only a big win if we use that to carry ourselves to another level. That's the goal — enjoying this tonight, but making this win take us to another level from a program standpoint, to where we feel like we can come into these places and play with the best teams in the conference.

Republic finished with 403 total yards to 372 for Nixa. The Tigers had 340 yards on the ground, led by Sandridge, with 134 on 26 carries. Woods carried the ball 28 times for 98 yards. Ellison had nine carries for 93 yards, and Krol had only 15 yards, but three touchdowns. Wood also threw for 63 passing yards and a touchdown. Ellison caught three passes for 41 yards, including the game-winning two-point conversion.

Nixa, which has wins over Carthage, Webb City, and Joplin this year, falls to 7-1. The Tigers improve to 5-3 and will host Carl Junction next week to wrap up the regular season.


Lawrence County Record

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Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712


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