The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

August 23, 2013

Joplin sees ups, downs

WEBB CITY, Mo. — The company line out of the Joplin Eagles camp was about what you’d expect after a jamboree.

There were some positives, some rust and lots to work on before the season officially kicks off next week.

“We’ve got a week to clean things up and we’ve got a lot of stuff to work on,” Joplin coach Chris Shields said on Friday night after his team faced Webb City and Seneca at Cardinal Stadium. “But you have to take it in stride. You always want to come out and play well and play at a high level and everything be perfect. But you have to make sure you keep things in perspective. It’s the first time out.”

Joplin’s offense moved the ball against Seneca and Webb City, but it had trouble hanging on to it.

The Eagles finished the night with four turnovers — three fumbles and an interception that was overthrown in the end zone.

“First thing I told our kids, if you’re minus-four in turnover ratio, you’re going to lose every week,” Shields said. “We’ve got to do a better job of taking the ball away from the other team and we have to hold on to the football. That’s the big thing.”

On the flip side, the Eagles showed some hard-nosed running. First-team quarterback Tristan Ash turned some busted passing plays into substantial gains and Adam Norsworthy and Antwon Hines each produced some nice runs.

Ash’s 11-yard scramble and a pair of Norsworthy runs put the Eagles in good position on their first drive of the night, but a fumble on third-and-goal from the 1-yard line ended the threat.

A 24-yard run from second-team quarterback Colby Cornett on the second drive was quickly negated by the interception in the end zone.

“Tristan is a hard runner and Adam is a hard runner. I thought Hines ran the ball well. He was decisive and got north and south,” Shields said. “Our guys run hard, we just have to make sure our guys are blocking for them up front and then we have to make the right decisions so those hard runs pay off in the end.”

Joplin’s defense was hurt by the big play.

Seneca’s Payton Rawlins hit sophomore Quentin Cotten for a 32-yard touchdown against the Eagles and Webb City scored on its first play against Joplin when Kyle Baldassarre sprinted 40 yards nearly untouched.

“Other than a couple plays where we took bad angles to the football, we played all right,” Shields said. “You just can’t give up big plays like that first play. You can’t do that, you have to start fast. If you get down against good teams, more often than not it’s hard to come back.”

Seneca’s offense may have turned the most heads on the night.

The Indians, coming off a solid season, showed a bruising running game led by senior running back Braxton Graham and Rawlins, the veteran quarterback.

“We’ve got a chance to be a good offensive football team and I think we showed that tonight,” Seneca coach Dan Scheible said. “Payton is a veteran quarterback, Braxton Graham, Chance Smith, Mac Yust ... those guys all showed they can play.”

The Indians scored twice against Joplin and two more times against Webb City.

“We didn’t game-plan this. Now the big thing is getting back and getting a game plan for Carthage,” Schieble said. “I thought for not game-planning, we executed fairly well.”

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