NIXA, Mo. — The final road game of the regular season couldn’t have gone better for the Joplin Eagles.
Junior running back Isaiah Davis rushed for three first-half touchdowns — four total — while the Eagles’ defense and special teams made life miserable for the opposition in Joplin’s 42-7 victory over Nixa on Friday night at Eagle Stadium.
“I thought it was another complete game for us,” Joplin coach Curtis Jasper said. “I feel like we are continuing to build and get better, and that’s the most important thing. The bright spot right now is we are playing unselfishly and really coming together.”
Joplin has won five straight games and holds a 6-2 record in the Central Ozark Conference. The Eagles currently sit in third place in the district standings with 39 points. Kirkwood (5-2), which did not play Friday, is second with 39.46 points.
“We are in a good spot, but it’s not where we want to be,” Jasper said. “We have senior night left, and we need to have a good showing because we are still trying to get that No. 2 seed.”
Joplin’s defense shut out Nixa for three-plus quarters and limited it to 157 total yards of offense. Senior Tristen Mitchell finished with seven tackles, six solo, four tackles for loss and one sack. Senior Nic Lewis had seven total tackles, four solo. Senior Luke Kuehnel had two solo tackles and five assisted.
“I thought Tristen Mitchell played a heck of a game on the defensive line, as did the rest of our defensive line,” Jasper said. “Our linebackers played remarkable as well. The defense as a whole did a really good job of getting after it.”
Joplin’s offense wasted little time getting on the scoreboard, taking the opening possession 80 yards on nine plays to go up 6-0 on a 2-yard touchdown run by Davis.
“It just makes us more confident for every drive (after an opening score),” Davis said. “It’s a plus for us and shows the strength we have on the field.”
Joplin’s special teams came up with the next big play when senior linebacker Lewis blocked Nixa’s punt with a minute to play in the first quarter to give JHS the ball at the Nixa 20. Davis gained 9 yards on first down and followed it up with a tackle-breaking 11-yard score to the right to push the lead to 12-0 with 28.6 seconds on the clock.
“That’s hard work taking it off the foot,” Jasper said of the blocked punt. “Our guys were fired up because it was a big play in the game but also because it takes a lot of hard work in practice to pull it off.”
Nixa was forced into a three-and-out on the next series, and Joplin junior Zach Westmoreland muffed the punt at the 34, immediately picked it up and avoided multiple tackles before sprinting his way up the middle of the field for a 64-yard punt return touchdown.
“It was just a matter of time (before he got a special teams score),” Jasper said. “He has been close several times, so I was happy to see him get one.”
Joplin went up 27-0 when Davis scored from a yard out with 5:52 to play in the half to cap a nine-play, 48-yard drive. Davis, who rushed 18 times for 122 yards, capped his night with a 3-yard touchdown run with less than three minutes to play in the third quarter as Joplin went up 35-0.
“The guys up front did a great job of creating holes for him,” Jasper said. “Isaiah ran really well. His vision was great, and he exploded through the holes. He is a great back, and I am happy to have him on our side.”
Sophomore Nathan Glades had a 14-yard touchdown run with 22 seconds left in the third to wrap Joplin’s scoring.
Nixa ended Joplin’s bid for its first shutout of the season when quarterback Hunter Crabtree found Lukas Roemen for an 8-yard touchdown with 1:21 to play in the game.
Joplin closes its regular season at home with a 7 p.m. matchup against Carl Junction (4-4) on Friday.