The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

October 20, 2012

Joplin rallies to beat Kickapoo

— A solid performance by the offensive line and the defense wasn’t out of the ordinary for the Joplin Eagles.

That a few key breaks actually went their way on Friday night sure seemed like something new.

It all added up to a memorable Senior Night win that saw Joplin fight back from a 13-0 deficit for a 20-16 win over the Kickapoo Chiefs at Junge Field.

Both teams moved to 5-4 (overall and in Ozark Conference play) to finish the regular season.

“This feels remarkable,” Joplin senior offensive lineman Danny Drouin said. “After a lot of adversity the last couple weeks ... to come in on Senior Night and keep the motivation and keep a spark and pull out a victory, it feels tremendous.”

The game turned late in the third quarter, after Turner Adams’ third field goal of the night pushed Kickapoo’s lead to 16-6.

Joplin’s next drive was doomed by an intentional grounding penalty and a bad snap on a punt that gave the Chiefs prime field position to add to their lead.

But on the first play of the drive, the Eagles stripped Kickapoo quarterback Anthony Cooper and Joplin junior Tristan Ash returned it 60 yards to the Chief 11-yard line.

Two plays later, senior Gabe Sachetta hit Adam Norsworthy on a slant for an 11-yard touchdown that cut the Chief lead to 16-13 with 44 seconds left in the third.

“It was a grind-fest and that one play kind of turned it,” said Ash, who would have returned the fumble for a touchdown if he hadn’t gotten tripped by the feet of one of his blockers. “They thought they were going to get the momentum and build on their lead, and that play flipped it.”

Joplin’s next drive ended with an interception in the end zone, but the Eagle defense — which allowed just 38 yards in the second half — forced a three-and-out.

Chris Payton-Barba and the Eagle offensive line then took over.

Payton-Barba rushed eight straight times for 37 of his game-high 176 yards to set up Sachetta’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Abe Hueller that gave the Eagles a 20-16 lead with 2:24 remaining.

The drive was extended when Kickapoo jumped offsides on 4th-and-1 with Joplin lined up to attempt a 42-yard field goal.

“They took over,” Joplin coach Chris Shields said of the offensive line. “We got back to Eagle football. That’s what we’re all about, I was proud of the line and Chris.”

Kickapoo’s last-chance drive ended after just four plays when Adam St. Peter drug down Cooper for an 8-yard loss on 4th down.

Payton-Barba unleashed runs of 22 and 6 yards before the Eagles kneeled at the Kickapoo 2-yard line to run out the clock.

Payton-Barba’s 176 rushing yards accounted for 64 percent of Joplin’s offense. He had all but four of Joplin’s rushes and all but 21 of the Eagles’ rushing yards.

“It was great. We just took advantage of our opportunities and did what we could,” he said. “Everybody executed and the line blocked really well. To do this on Senior Night ... it’s something we’ll remember the rest of our lives.”

The Joplin defense, meanwhile, held Kickapoo to just 186 total yards and 81 of those yards came on two first-half runs by Cooper, who finished with 76 rushing yards after some second-half sacks. Cooper also was just 2-for-11 passing for 15 yards.

Kickapoo’s lone touchdown came after a Joplin fumble set up the Chiefs at the Eagle 38.

“Our defense was huge all night,” Shields said. “To hold them to field goals ... that was big. We gave up some big plays early in the game, but after that the defense was lights-out.”

Sachetta was 8-for-15 passing for 78 yards and two touchdowns. His 37-yard pass to Adam St. Peter set up Joplin’s first touchdown — a 6-yard Payton-Barba run that cut Kickapoo’s lead to 13-6 late in the first half.

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