The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

September 21, 2012

Webb City, Nixa collide in conference showdown

Now, Nixa.

The Eagles, who’ve established a solid football resume in recent years, will be the latest challengers for streaking Webb City.

Nixa will visit tonight with kickoff scheduled for 7 at Cardinal Stadium in the Central Ozark Conference Large Division showdown.

Nixa and Webb City have records of 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the COC Large Division.

Nixa, ranked seventh in Class 5, is seeking a fourth straight trip to the playoffs. Webb City, a unanimous choice as No. 1 in Class 4, is two-time defending state champion.

The two most prominent winning streaks by the Cardinals are 34 in a row overall — their all-time best — and 85 in a row regular-season.

Said Nixa coach Rich Rehagen: “Our kids are excited and looking forward to the game. We realize it’s a big test.”

Plus, Rehagen said, it’s a game that can be used to measure the Eagles’ progress and perhaps unearth areas that need improvement.

Brett Christie, sports editor of the Christian County Headliner, pointed out this week that Nixa has outscored its opponents 129-9 and its No. 1 defensive unit hasn’t allowed a point.

Webb City coach John Roderique said Thursday that there are few things, if any, the Cardinal staff doesn’t like/respect about the Eagles.

“Nixa is an extremely good team,” he said. “Their players up front are big, strong, physical. They have excellent tight ends and linebackers. They have outstanding players at the ‘skill’ positions. They have good overall speed.

“The quarterback (senior Austin Schweiss) makes them go on offense,” Roderique said. “They run a perfect ‘I’ (formation).”

Jonathan Hukill, a junior, and sophomore Alec Murphy have shared duty at tailback.

“The Nixa kicking game is very impressive (on film),” Roderique said. “You can tell their coaches and players have worked very hard on that aspect.

“Absolutely, this could be a test for us,” Roderique said. “They won’t beat themselves. Also, we have to be more physical.”

The Cardinals’ 41-7 win at Nixa in 2011 is of little solace for Roderique.

“They are coached very well,” Roderique said of the Eagles. “They understand what we do. They understand how to defend it. We realize they graduated several players but that defense on film looks almost identical to last season.

“That score last year doesn’t reflect the actual game,” Roderique said. “We had several big plays. They also were without their regular quarterback and Schweiss had to step in for him.”

Rehagen said Webb City all-state running back Phoenix Johnson, who’s rushed for 384 yards and seven touchdowns this season, sparked the Cardinals in 2011.

Rehagen said the Eagles returned just two starters on offense. But the defense returned five and three linemen were in that group.

Nixa bounced back from the loss to Webb City last season to finish 10-2 and reach the quarterfinals before losing to Lee’s Summit West.

Injury notes: Roderique said senior punter Landon Baker (ankle) returned to practice on Thursday. “He should be able to go,” Roderique said. ... Rehagen, meanwhile, said outside linebacker Mason Rohr (shoulder) might miss a second straight game. If Rohr can’t go, fellow junior Kyle Robillard will start, Rehagen said.

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