By Rod Shetler
Special to The Globe
NIXA, Mo. —
It was almost like the Carthage defense was sick of being a punching bag for every team they played.
Going into halftime at Nixa tied at 21-21, the Tiger defense shut down the Eagles in the second half and Carthage earned a huge road win on Friday night 42-21.
“That was just a great win for us against a very good team,” said Carthage coach Jon Guidie. “We were the underdog coming in here, and they scored in five or six plays in the first quarter, but we made some adjustments and got a huge win.”
The Tigers were led by quarterback Jordan Musser who was 13 for 23 for 291 yards and three touchdowns.
The Tigers (6-2) had been scoring more than 40 points a game, but giving up nearly that amount on defense. In the first half, both statistics looked to be right on target.
Nixa (5-3) scored quickly in the first quarter on a 37-yard run up the middle by Alec Murphy for a 7-0 lead with 10:40 left in the opening period.
Carthage answered with a 10-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a four-yard run on 4th-and-1 by Seth Beckner, to tie the game with 6:45 remaining in the period.
The Tigers took the lead with a drive that was set up with a 65-yard pass from Musser to Beckner to give Carthage a first down at the Nixa 20. Two plays later Musser found E.J. Morgan with an 11-yard TD pass to go ahead 14-7.
A 36-yard TD run by Nixa’s Jacob Karlson, and two minutes later a 34-yard scoring run by Karlson regained the lead for the Eagles at 21-14 with 9:13 left in the half.
Carthage was able to knot the game 21-21 with 2:16 left before the break when Musser hooked up with Beckner for a 34-yard scoring play.
The Tigers got the kickoff to start the second half, and it was obvious a change had taken place. Instead of Carthage relying on the arm of Musser, they went into ball control mode, and pinned their hopes to the running game and controlling the football.
Carthage went 69-yards in 13 plays and ate up six minutes of the third quarter before Musser hit Morgan with a 16-yard TD toss on 4th and 1 to go ahead 27-21 after the PAT kick was wide.
“Nixa came out in the first half in a different look than what we prepared for,” said Guidie. “But we came out and took six minutes off the clock on that first drive in the third quarter, and I think that took some wind out of their sails. Our offensive line deserves a lot of credit. When you go to the run, you have to keep picking up those first downs. They did a great job.”
After the Tiger defense forced a Nixa punt, the Carthage offense went back to the ground and got a big boost from tailback Cameron Priester who picked his way through the left side of the line and broke free for a 55-yard scoring run to put Carthage ahead 35-21 with 8:33 to play.
After another Nixa punt, Carthage took over at the Eagle 31 and marched 69 yards in six minutes before Priester scored again on a 9-yard carry with 49.4 seconds remaining to play for the final score.
The ball control offense and suddenly stingy Carthage defense limited Nixa to just two first downs in the second half and 16 total offensive plays.
“Carthage’s kids just got us stopped,” said Nixa coach Richard Rehagen.
“They quit throwing the ball and started working the running game. We just couldn’t get the ball back,” Rehagen said.
Beckner ended the night with 173 yards rushing on 36 carries to lead all rushers. In the first half Beckner had carried the ball just 11 times for 60 yards.
“At halftime, we decided we would just take what they gave us and go with four plays,” Guidie said. “That’s what we did and we just stayed with it”