Neosho has at least three more chances at avoiding its first winless football season in seven years.
Tonight, however, may be its best opportunity.
The Wildcats hit the road to take on Willard at 7 in a clash between the Central Ozark Conference’s two losingest teams. Neosho (0-7, 0-7 COC) looks to elude its first 0-8 start to a season since 2013, while Willard (1-6, 1-6) tries to elude its worst start since 2010.
“It’s obviously been a challenging season, and we definitely want to end it on a good note,” Neosho coach Leon Miller said. “We’d like to build momentum and feel good about where we’re at the end of it. So Friday night is an opportunity to work toward that. They (Willard) have had their struggles this season, but so have we. We’re just trying to focus on what we need to do to get better and try and get the win. It should be a good ballgame.”
Miller said the Wildcats, hindered by youth and injuries throughout the season, showed improvements on both sides of the ball in a 31-7 setback to Ozark last week. Neosho held Ozark to 10 points in the first half before being outscored 21-7 in the second half.
“Defensively, I thought we played better at times — first half especially,” Miller said. “We made them earn it and didn’t give up the big play.”
Running back Eric Siler accounted for Neosho’s lone score on a four-yard touchdown run with about two minutes remaining in the game, putting the Wildcats on the scoreboard for a second consecutive week. It was one silver lining for a Neosho offense that was shutout in three of its first five games.
“Offensively, we moved the football,” Miller said. “I thought we should have scored once in the first half and then earlier in the second half, but we weren’t able to finish those two drives. Overall though, I thought we did some good things on that side of the ball.”
Willard enters tonight’s tilt riding a two-game losing streak since its 32-20 upset win over Joplin in Week 5. It suffered a 42-7 loss to Carthage on Oct. 2 before falling 48-14 last week at Branson.
Willard is averaging 13.3 points per game while allowing 35.7 ppg to its opponents.
“They do what they always do,” Miller said of Willard. “They run their overload and unbalanced-type stuff, and once we adjust, they’ll get into some spread stuff. Defensively, they base out of a 4-4 and they’ll morph into a 3-man front from time to time.”
Miller said Neosho will again be down a handful of starters due to injuries — a trend that has plagued the Wildcats since the second week of the season.
“We just have to get on the same page and stay on the same page,” Miller said. “We’ve had to plug people in here and there throughout the season because of the injuries. That’s tough sometimes, but I think we’re getting there. It’s hard to develop much cohesiveness up front when we have as many moving parts as we’ve had. But the kids are trying hard, working hard and trying to get that done.”