Wildcats take down Pirates, remain perfect at home

Oct. 1—NEOSHO, Mo. — It took a matter of seconds in gameplay for Neosho to grab 14 unanswered points, boosting it to a 50-31 victory against Branson on Friday night in Bob Anderson Stadium.

With three seconds on the clock, the Wildcats (3-3) were sitting at the Pirates' 48-yard-line. Rather than a hail mary throw to the endzone, head coach Brandon Taute decided on the hook-and-ladder trick play.

Quenton Hughes took the snap and immediately looked at Isaiah Green heading over the middle of the field. Green caught the pass and lateraled it to Jared Siler who was crossing the field a few yards behind him.

Siler took the lateral and busted it out wide to the left side of the field and outran everyone from the second level and beyond for a score right before halftime.

That 48-yard touchdown put Neosho ahead 29-17.

The Wildcats kicked off to begin the second half. But Branson (1-5) did not get to possess the ball first.

A pooch kick with some backspin from Neosho bounced away from an upman on the Pirates' kickoff team and the delay to get on the ball allowed the Wildcats to rush downfield and recover the kickoff at the 30-yard line.

The first offensive play from the Wildcats saw Hughes hook up with Collyn Kivett over the top on a seam route, giving Neosho a 36-17 lead. That was the second of two scoring connections between Kivett and Hughes.

"It was huge," Taute said. "I challenged them at halftime to kind of go for the knockout. We had them on the ropes and the kids responded really well."

Neosho utilized all parts of the offense with the run game, deep passes, screen passes, and underneath routes. Hughes shared the ball to multiple targets throughout the night.

"It's a group of kids (the offense) that are completely unselfish," Taute said. "We do it multiple ways. ... It's real easy to want your touches, but, they all block for each other — all the skill players do — and the big guys up front do a great job of opening up holes and they did a great job in pass protection as well.

"When you've got a group of unselfish kids it's easy to spread the ball around and we're tough to defend because of that."

The Wildcats' defense came up with key stops on top of the special teams play on the kickoff recovery. One stop in particular was a fumble recovery as Branson moved into the red zone late in the game with Neosho leading by 19.

"Our kids got big stops when we needed them," Taute said.

The game began as a seesaw affair with Neosho scoring on an 80-yard pass play from Hughes to Green. Branson responded with about five minutes remaining in the opening stanza when running back Cade Grimm found paydirt from 19 yards out.

Locked up at seven a piece, Hughes hit Kivett for a score from the 26-yard line. Siler ran it up the gut for a two-point conversion to give his team an eight-point lead.

On their next possession, the Pirates were faced with a 4th-and-2 situation at Neosho's 45. Grimm took the handoff, broke some tackles and 45 yards later was crossing the goal line. Branson added a PAT from Dane Efird to get back within a point, 15-14.

Siler added a five-yard TD run and Efird drilled a 36-yard field goal making it 22-17 just before Noesho scored its 14 consecutive points just before and just after halftime.

Neosho's senior running back got his third score of the game in the third quarter on a 54-yard sprint up the middle of the field. In the fourth period, Hughes found Green for a second time on a 5-yard completion for Neosho's final score.

Branson's Grimm scored his third TD with 7:52 remaining in the third quarter from the 1-yard-line making it 36-24 in favor of the Wildcats. This was the closest the Pirates would be for the remainder of the game. Marshall Storm got involved on an option play as he took a pitch out right and escaped the Wildcat defenders on his way to a 40-yard score for the last touchdown of the night.

"He's (Grimm) a good running back," Taute said. "We knew he was going to cause problems at times. He's a big, physical running back. We challenged our kids to just continue to rally and rally."

Neosho is now 3-0 at home while losing all three contests away from Bob Anderson Stadium. The Wildcats will be heading to Ozark next Friday.

"We just want to continue to get better every day," Taute said. "We've done a great job at home and now we go back out on the road, so, we're going to try and get a win on the road. But it starts with us and just focusing on getting better every single day."

Taute mentioned wanting to see his guys focus specifically on continuing to control the line of scrimmage as they prepare for "another physical football team" in Ozark.