Joplin coach Curtis Jasper doesn’t know if there is a more dynamic running back in Southwest Missouri or “much of the state” than his star tailback Nathan Glades.
Glades showed why he’s one of the state’s top backs on Friday night against Branson, rushing for 248 yards on 26 carries. The senior scored six of the seven touchdowns to lead the Eagles past the Pirates in a 45-24 victory at Junge Field.
“He’s not even doing it at 100%, so just the heart he has and I know he gives all the credit to the guys up front — they worked their tails off — but he is definitely a dynamic player,” Jasper said. “Coach (Anthony) Hays (from Branson) tried talking me into resting him for districts before the game and I told him ‘We have to get on a roll here, man.’ We gotta get things rolling. We took the first step tonight.”
And Glades, in fact, was quick to credit his teammates for his success.
“My focus was to win the game and be the best team-player I can be,” Glades said. “Not the best me. I want to be the best team and the best leader on the field. I’m excited the way our line picked up the blitzes, kept their eyes up and made sure they got to their guy.
“Honestly, that helped me out a lot. I make one cut and I’m gone because now I know I'm left with the safety one-on-one. That’s perfect for me.”
Joplin started off with a bang. In its opening possession, the Eagles only needed six plays to march 66 yards, culminating with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Always Wright to Quinton Renfroe.
But Branson cut the deficit to 6-3 after a 22-yard field goal from Cristian Berumen to close out the first quarter.
Four minutes into the second quarter, the Pirates converted a Joplin turnover into a 12-yard touchdown run by Tristian Pierce, who scrambled around the Eagles defense to the end zone. But Joplin retook the lead three minutes later after Glades punched it into the end zone on a nine-yard carry for the 13-10 lead.
And with 27 seconds left in the first half, the Eagles went into tank formation and Glades scored his second touchdown of the half, a one-yard run for a 20-10 halftime lead.
In the second half, Joplin began to pull away. After forcing a quick three-and-out on Branson’s opening drive, the Eagles followed with scores on consecutive drives to get the 33-10 lead midway through the third quarter.
“The advantage of getting the ball first (to open the game) is you can get some momentum, but the disadvantage is you don’t get the ball out of halftime,” Jasper said. “We told them getting a stop out of the half is going to be huge and we were able to convert it on the offensive side.
“We felt like that put some pressure on them to go to the pass game more. Once they did that, Coach (Nick) Reid made good adjustments as far as his pressures and bringing pressures from different spots. We hit home on a lot of them.”
The first score was a one-yard touchdown run from Glades and the other was a 15-yard scamper.
Branson and Joplin then traded scores, with Glades scoring superman-style with a dive across the goal line to finish an eight-yard run. Glades capped his big night with a two-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
“(Tonight’s game) was beautiful because all 11 dudes played until the whistle was blown and that’s what I was most excited about,” Glades said. “No matter what — we kept pushing until one big play and that was it. Momentum came on our side.”
Joplin ran a total of 63 plays for an unofficial 561 yards of total offense while the Joplin defense held the Pirates to 262 yards.
“That was the best defensive game I’ve seen them play,” Glades said. “We had a couple of bad busted coverages, but that doesn’t mean anything. The way these kids came out and balled, I was excited. It was a tremendous effort by everybody on the defense.”
Wright completed 16-of-20 passes for 199 yards, including a touchdown. Backup running back Renfroe caught two passes for 15 yards and a score, and also rushed for 23 yards on five attempts.
Landen Atherton led the receiving corps with five catches for 64 yards. Keaton Renfroe hauled in three catches for 32 yards while Trayshawn Thomas collected two catches for 22 yards.
For Branson, Pierce completed 13-of-21 passes for 169 yards, including an 18-yard touchdown pass to Colton Cooper. The Eagles held the Pirates top two running backs David Hadaller and Christian Berumen to a combined 47 yards on 19 carries.
But wideout Brady Blackwell finished with a team-high eight receptions for 75 yards.
Joplin (4-4) closes out the regular season Friday at Neosho (0-8).
“We just have to keep working on consistency,” Jasper said. “That’s the thing. We have some dynamic players and we do some really good things. We did a better job of minimizing our mistakes tonight. We need to continue to play smart and continue to focus on the little things because we know we can do the dynamic.
“Now, we got to do the Mondaying and stuff that goes unnoticed that’s so important.”