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PREP SOFTBALL: Neosho shakes off rust in 12-2 win over Monett in five innings; Kinnaird tosses no-no in first-career start

NEOSHO, Mo. — After a shaky top of the first inning, Neosho settled in on the way to a 12-2 five-inning win over Monett behind a historical first-career start for freshman Carleigh Kinnaird to open the season on the brand new turf on Monday at the Neosho Athletic Complex.

Monett (0-1) started out with the momentum, scoring twice in the top of the first inning thanks in large part to two walks and a pair of throwing errors. Neosho (1-0) responded quickly, scoring four times in the bottom half to take the lead. The Wildcats plated four more runs in the second inning before adding two runs in each of the third and fourth innings to end the game via run rule.

“I didn’t think we looked clean,” Neosho coach Catie Cummins said. “I realize it is the first game on a new field, but to me that kind of sounds like excuses. But, we settled in. The great news is once we got out of that first inning, playing tight and stuff, we settled in and took care of business. 

“I thought our defense, outside of the first inning, looked good and pitching was much improved. And we got down two runs and our offense didn’t look concerned at all. We just went up there and scored four runs and felt like we were in control.”

Freshman pitcher Carleigh Kinnaird delivers to home during Neosho’s win over Monett on Monday. Kinnaird allowed two unearned runs and tossed a no-hitter in her first varsity start. Photo by Shawn Fowler.


Kinnaird had a memorable start to her varsity softball career, earning the win in the circle for the Wildcats after allowing two unearned runs over five no-hit innings of work. She walked two and struck out six.

“The errors at third and at catcher are players we don’t frequently see errors from,” Cummins said. “So for her to settle in and say, ‘I am going to throw strikes. They are going to get outs. We’re going to be OK. If we give up a couple of runs, that’s fine because we have a good enough offense that we’ll bounce back.’ That is a conversation Coach (Jakki) Schneider had with her. She listened and took care of business, getting a lot of ground ball (outs) today.

“Giving (Carleigh) those early runs allowed her to settle down. She will learn and be able to do that even when we are down in games. But, I thought that was huge to take the pressure off of her and the defense and our hitters later in the game.”

Abby Inman took the loss for Monett after allowing 12 runs, 10 earned, on 15 hits and two walks.

Neosho catcher McKaylie Forrest rips a ball to left field in the Wildcats’ win over Monett. Photo by Shawn Fowler.


Lili Graue led the Wildcats at the plate with three hits, a walk and three runs scored. Kaitlyn Killion doubled for one of her two hits, two RBI and scored twice. Grace Johnson doubled, had two hits, scored a run and drove in one, while Baylie Bowers had two hits and scored twice. Maelynn Garrett had two hits and drove in two. Abbie Carpenter, Maddie Carpenter and McKaylie Forrest also doubled in the win. 

“We talk a lot about scoring early and often,” Cummins said. “While we didn’t score first today, we did score early and we scored every inning. You can’t ask for much more. … I felt like we had some good at-bats and were able to try a few things—some steals, some bunting, hit and run, that kind of stuff. So I was pleased with what we were able to do today.”


Neosho showed signs of rust in the top of the first inning after a pair of throwing errors coupled with two walks in the inning allowed Monett to take a 2-0 lead without recording a hit.

Neosho’s Alivia Campbell earns a base hit against Monett on Monday. Photo by Shawn Fowler.

The Wildcats responded in the last of the first inning, taking advantage of an error by Monett with the bases loaded to allow the first run to score. Alivia Campbell followed with an RBI single to tie the game at 2-2 before Johnson followed with another RBI single to give Neosho a 3-2 advantage. Garrett made it three straight run-scoring singles in the next at-bat to put Neosho up two.

Neosho used three run-scoring doubles in the second inning to double its output and build an 8-2 lead. Abbie Carpenter started the scoring off with a two-run double to left before Forrest doubled to center to plate a run. Maddie Carpenter wrapped the scoring with an RBI double to left.

Killion doubled home two runs on a line drive to center field in the fourth inning to push the lead to 10.


Neosho takes part in the Paige Neal/Christina Freeman Invitational softball tournament hosted by Joplin this weekend.

GIRLS TENNIS:  Neosho falls to Aurora in ’21 opener


The Neosho Wildcats suffered a 5-4 setback to the Aurora Houn’ Dawgs in girls tennis on Monday. 

In singles matches, Aurora’s Olivia Ray defeated Claudia Martensen 8-1 and Emily Gearheart beat Jasmine Martinez 8-3. The Wildcats lost by forfeit at No. 3 singles.

Neosho’s Lyndsey Doke defeated Kloey Boyd 9-7 at No. 4 singles. The Wildcats won matches at No. 5 and No. 6 singles by forfeit.

McKenna Bradley and Ray defeated Martensen and Martinez 8-3 at No. 1 doubles, while Gearheart-Boyd beat Doke-Lauren Nageotte 8-2 at No. 2. The Wildcats won the No. 3 doubles match by forfeit.

Neosho hosts Republic at 4:30 today. 


PREP SOFTBALL: Cassville downs Carl Junction

CARL JUNCTION, Mo. — Cassville scored 10 runs in the second inning on the way to a 15-1 win over Carl Junction on Monday.

After a scoreless opening frame, Cassville pushed across 10 runs in the second inning, four more in the third and added a run in the fifth to defeat the Bulldogs.

Isabelle Edwards earned the win for Cassville in the circle after allowing one run on one hit and six strikeouts in five complete innings.

Hannah Cole took the loss for Carl Junction after allowing 15 runs, five earned, on 13 hits, five walks and a strikeout.

Edwards also homered for one of her two hits while driving in four and scoring one. Makenzi Dillbeck, Ryleigh Burnette, Kalee Lowe and Elly Rameaker each had two hits for Cassville.

Izzie Southern doubled and scored a run to lead Carl Junction at the plate, while Cole picked up the Bulldogs’ lone RBI.

Carl Junction takes part in the Paige Neal/Christina Freeman Invitational softball tournament hosted by Joplin this weekend.

GIRLS TENNIS: Thomas Jefferson edges Joplin


Thomas Jefferson edged Joplin 5-4 in a girls tennis dual on Monday at the TJ courts.

The Eagles won two of three doubles matches.

At No. 1 doubles, Joplin’s Astrid Cardenas and Abry Stayton defeated Allison Ding and Jeanna Jeyaraj 8-1.

Thomas Jefferson’s Kyla Yang and Jessica Joseph defeated Cloey Blank and Mya Ndedi-Ntepe 8-3 at No. 2 doubles.

Joplin won the No. 3 doubles match, as Brynn Driver and Madi Corl beat Warda Morsy and Emalee Ro 8-2. 

The Cavaliers won four of the six singles matches. 

At No. 1 singles, Ding defeated Cardenas 8-3. Joplin’s Stayton beat Jeyaraj 8-3 at No. 2 singles, while Yang defeated Blank 8-4 at No. 3 singles.

TJ’s Joseph beat Ndedi-Ntepe 8-3 at No. 4 singles, but Joplin’s Driver defeated Morsy 8-5 at No. 5 singles.

“Brynn was able to rally back from a 1-5 deficit,” JHS assistant coach Richard Perry said. “It was nice seeing her play well after being sidelined from a knee injury all summer.” 

At No. 6 singles, TJ’s Ro beat Corl 8-2.

Joplin hosts Webb City at 4:30 on Tuesday, while Thomas Jefferson will host Nevada on Thursday.  

In another dual on Monday, College Heights defeated Webb City 5-4.

SOFTBALL: Welch delivers walk-off hit in Webb City’s season opener

WEBB CITY, Mo. — Emma Welch made sure the first game of her senior season was a memorable one. 

Welch smacked a game-winning double into left-center in the bottom of the seventh inning, lifting Webb City to a 5-4 walk-off win over Nevada on Monday in the 2021 season opener at Chuck Barnes Field. 

“I knew as a senior it was my time to step up,” Welch said. “I knew what I had to do. I had full confidence in myself and I knew my teammates had confidence in me. I went up there with confidence and it worked out for me.” 

Last year’s Class 4 runner-up, the Cardinals overcame a four-run deficit and the game was deadlocked entering the bottom of the seventh inning. 

With one out, senior designated hitter Shelby Gardner reached when the Tigers were unable to corral her line drive to third base. She later took second on a wild pitch. 

A returning all-state and all-conference center fielder, Welch stepped into the batter’s box with two outs. On a 2-0 count, Welch delivered a game-ending RBI double into the gap in left-center, setting off a celebration for the hosts.

“It was an inside pitch and it felt amazing off the bat,” Welch said. “She did amazing pitching on the outside corner. I was expecting it outside, she came with it inside and I took my opportunity. It felt so good coming off the bat. It was an amazing way to start the season.” 

“We were in a great spot,” Webb City coach Shauna Friend said. “Shelby did a great job of getting on. That gave us an opportunity to win. Then we had Peyton (Hawkins) and Emma. We knew one of them was going to get the job done.” 

Webb City third baseman Emalee Lamar fires a throw to first as shortstop Peyton Hawkins looks on. Nevada’s Bailey Ast heads for home.

The Cardinals played down the road from their usual home field because the renovations at the softball facility aren’t quite complete. 

Nevada received a run-scoring ground out from Kirstin Buck in the first. A junior third baseman, Buck launched a three-run home run to left in the third, giving the visitors a four-run cushion. 

Webb City senior shortstop Peyton Hawkins, another returning all-state and all-conference performer, connected for a solo home run to left in the third. 

The Cardinals added two runs in the fifth on senior Morgan Brannon’s homer to left-center and Hawkins’ RBI triple to left that allowed Gardner to charge home. 

Webb City tied it up in the sixth when senior catcher Kaylyn Gilbert homered to left. The team’s late heroics followed in the final frame. 

“It’s always good to open a season with a win,” Friend said. “We have some things to work on. We knew the other team was going to hit, and we just had to respond. It took us a while. But we put things together and got it done. I was pretty pleased. And this is a fun group.” 

The Cardinals recorded eight hits, and three were home runs. Hawkins and Gardner had two hits apiece.

Webb City freshman Laney Taylor delivers a pitch during Monday’s game with Nevada. Photo by Jason Peake.

Webb City freshman Laney Taylor was the winning pitcher. In her prep debut, Taylor allowed four runs on four hits and three walks while striking out six. 

“I thought she had a great first game,” Friend said. “I know she was a little nervous. She did a great job of controlling her nerves and doing the job we needed.”

Nevada freshman Peyton Eaton took the loss. She surrendered four runs on eight hits and a walk while striking out three. 

Buck drove in all four runs for Nevada (2-3). 

Webb City (1-0) will host Monett on Thursday at either Chuck Barnes Field or the high school softball stadium.  


PREP FOOTBALL: Missouri Media releases first football rankings of ‘21 season


The Missouri Media has released its statewide high school football rankings for Aug. 30. 

Joplin (1-0) is ranked fourth in Class 6, while Central Ozark Conference rival Nixa (1-0) is ranked sixth. The two schools will meet on Friday at Junge Field. 

In Class 5, Webb City (0-1) is ranked second and Carthage (1-0) is ranked sixth. 

Lamar (1-0) is ranked first in Class 2. 

Jason Peake of SoMo Sports is on the 10-member panel of sportswriters and broadcasters who vote weekly. 

Full polls are listed below. 



Below are the statewide high school football rankings, as compiled by a 10-member panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. 

Panel is made up of Dion Clisso, PrepsKC; Cody Thorn, The Examiner; Dave Kvidahl,; Tom Rackers, Jefferson City News-Tribune; Chris Parker, Ozone Sports; Brandon Zenner, The St. Joseph News-Press; J.B. Connoley, KRES radio; Matt King, The Daily Journal; Jason Peake,; Brian Rosener, Poplar Bluff Daily American Republic.

First-place votes in parenthesis. 



Rank, team, Rec., Pts.

  1. DeSmet (5), 1-0, 95  
  2. Raymore-Peculiar (5), 1-0, 92 
  3. CBC, 0-1, 74 
  4. Joplin, 1-0, 54
  5. Liberty North, 0-1, 53
  6. Nixa, 1-0, 45
  7. Rockhurst, 0-1, 44
  8. Francis Howell, 1-0, 36 
  9. Liberty, 1-0, 28
  10. Lee’s Summit North, 1-0, 13 

Also receiving votes: Hazelwood Central (1-0), 11; Kirkwood (1-0), 4; Marquette (1-0), 1 



Rank, team, Rec., Pts.

  1. Jackson (10), 1-0, 100 
  2. Webb City, 0-1, 78
  3. Raytown, 1-0, 69
  4. Battle, 1-0, 67
  5. Holt, 1-0, 64
  6. Carthage, 1-0, 55  
  7. Chaminade, 1-0, 32
  8. Fort Zumwalt North, 0-1, 31 
  9. Staley, 1-0, 27
  10. North Kansas City, 0-1, 9 

Also receiving votes: Fort Osage (1-0), 8; Lebanon (1-0), 4; Ladue (1-0), 2; Platte County (0-1), 2; Jefferson City Helias (0-1), 1; Rockwood Summit (1-0), 1



Rank, team, Rec., Pts.

  1. Smithville (7), 10, 94

T2. MICDS (1), 1-0, 84  

T2. West Plains (1), 1-0, 84

  1. Hannibal (1), 1-0, 78
  2. Harrisonville, 1-0, 59
  3. McCluer, 1-0, 44
  4. St. Dominic, 1-0, 31 
  5. Grandview, 1-0, 24
  6. Excelsior Springs, 1-0, 20
  7. Warrensburg, 1-0, 12

Also receiving votes: Union (1-0), 11; Lincoln College Prep (1-0), 5; St. Joseph Lafayette (1-0), 2; Festus (0-1), 2



Rank, team, Rec., Pts.

  1. Blair Oaks (9), 1-0, 98

       T2. Odessa, 1-0, 86

       T2. St. Mary’s (1), 1-0, 86

  1. Lutheran North, 0-1, 63
  2. Valle Catholic, 1-0, 54 
  3. Cardinal Ritter, 0-1, 49
  4. St. Pius X, 1-0, 41
  5. Cassville, 1-0, 19

    T9. Mexico, 1-0, 16

    T9. Summit Christian, 1-0, 16

Also receiving votes: Park Hills Central (1-0), 14; Kennett (1-0), 7; Reeds Spring (1-0), 1 



Rank, team, Rec., Pts.

  1. Lamar (10), 1-0, 100 
  2. Duchesne, 1-0, 77
  3. Fair Grove, 1-0, 68
  4. Macon, 1-0, 49
  5. Hallsville, 1-0, 48
  6. Maryville, 0-1, 43
  7. Lutheran St. Charles, 0-1, 39
  8. MV-Liberty, 1-0, 36 
  9. Jefferson, 1-0, 24
  10. Butler, 1-0, 23

Also receiving votes: Richmond (1-0), 13; Brookfield (1-0), 12; Clark County (1-0), 9; Lafayette County (0-1), 4; Lift for Life (0-1), 3; Palmyra (0-1), 2



Rank, team, Rec., Pts.

  1. Windsor (8), 1-0, 94
  2. Monroe City (1), 1-0, 81
  3. Mid Buchanan (1), 1-0, 77
  4. Marionville, 1-0, 63
  5. Hayti, 1-0, 60
  6. Hamilton-Penney, 1-0, 59  
  7. Westran, 1-0, 36
  8. East Buchanan, 1-0, 19

   T9. Harrisburg, 1-0, 17

   T9. Skyline, 0-1, 17

Also receiving votes: Thayer (0-1), 15; Marceline (1-0), 9; Gallatin (1-0), 3. 

CROSS COUNTRY: Local athletes compete at Neosho; Youngworth pleased with McAuley’s showing


Andy Youngworth was definitely pleased with his McAuley Catholic Warriors at the conclusion of Saturday’s season-opening Neosho Warm-Up cross country invitational. 

“It was a great day for Warrior Cross Country,” said Youngworth, who made his debut as McAuley’s head coach. “It was a sunny, warm morning but our kids competed hard. For more than half of them, this was their first cross country race.” 

The invite featured 2-mile races. 

In his high school debut, McAuley freshman Michael Parrigon finished fourth in the boys race, crossing the line in 11 minutes, 26 seconds.  

McAuley’s Kevin Tran finished 21st in 13:16, while teammate Armando Alberto was 25th in 13:28. Youngworth noted it was the first ever cross country meet at any level for both Tran and Alberto. 

For the McAuley girls, Kendall Ramsey finished 14th with a time of 15:18. 

Also of note, St. Peter’s Catholic Middle School’s Amelia Hagale recorded the 10th fastest time (15:04) among all female runners. 

McAuley’s cross country teams will compete at the Aurora Invitational on Sept. 2. 



Neosho’s Kaden Cole crossed the line first in the boys race with a time of 10:21. 

Also for the Wildcats, Carson Newell was third (11:18), Gabe Mabrey took fifth (11:29), while Harry Slinkard (11:47) and Connor Jordon (12:02) finished seventh and eighth, respectively. 

Neosho’s Bryce Hall finished 11th (12:20) and teammate Corbin Goins (12:30) was 15th.  

For the Neosho girls, Chloe Wood (12:43) and Riley Kemna (13:18) finished first and second, respectively. 

The Wildcats had three other girls finish in the top seven, as Adriana Adams placed fourth in 14:29, Makenna Davis took fifth with a time of 14:35 and Lakyn Prough was seventh in 14:53. 



College Heights Christian’s Caleb Quade placed 10th in the boys race with a time 12:15. 

Jayli Johnson led the College Heights girls by finishing third in 14:26.

Also for the CHC girls, Madelynn Jordan was 20th, Sophia Moore was 21st, Madi Carson finished 24th and Stella Moore was 26th. 



Thomas Jefferson’s Kip Atteberry was the runner-up in the boys race with a time of 11:13. 

For the TJ girls, Macie Shifferd (14:55) and Sarah Mueller (14:58) finished ninth and 10th, respectively. 


VOLLEYBALL: Cavaliers begin season at Verona tourney


The Thomas Jefferson volleyball team competed at the Verona Tournament on Saturday.

The Cavaliers went 1-3-1 on the day.

Thomas Jefferson defeated Purdy 25-15, 25-18. The Cavaliers tied with Golden City (26-24, 16-25).

Exeter defeated TJ 25-21, 25-23, Sarcoxie topped the Cavaliers 25-18, 25-13 and Marionville beat Thomas Jefferson 25-12, 28-26.

The Cavaliers will compete at Purdy on Monday and then host Greenfield on Tuesday night. 

PREP SOFTBALL: Joplin starts season 4-0 with two wins on Saturday; CJ drops two games

Joplin moved to 4-0 on the young season after earning a 4-2 win over Hillcrest and a 10-1 win over Branson on Saturday to wrap up play in the Branson/Aurora Bash softball tournament.

Carl Junction fell to 0-4 after dropping a 17-0 contest to Branson and a 10-6 game against Hillcrest.



Joplin erased an early deficit with three runs crossing home in the bottom of the first inning before going on to beat the Hornets in the opener.

With Joplin trailing 1-0 after the top half of the first, Bailey Ledford reached on a four-pitch walk and touched home to tie the game moments later on an RBI triple from Jadyn Pankow, who came around to score on a wild pitch in the next at-bat to give the Eagles a 2-1 lead. The third run of the inning came around to score on an RBI groundout by Hope Oakley. 

Joplin pushed the lead to 4-1 in the last of the third inning when Izzy Yust picked up an RBI on a groundout that scored Ledford.

Payton Jones earned the win in the circle after allowing two runs on eight hits, a walk and two strikeouts in five innings of work. Jill McDaniel earned the save after striking out one and walking one in one relief inning.

Pankow and Yust each had one hit, one RBI and scored a run, while Taryn Casey and Ryleigh Surridge each recorded base hits. Ledford walked twice and scored two runs, with Oakley also tallying an RBI.



Joplin scored in every inning on the way to a 10-1 win over Branson to close out the Branson/Aurora Bash.

The Eagles scored two runs in the first and second innings, one run in the third and fourth innings and capped off the win with a four-run fifth inning.

McDaniel earned the complete-game win in the circle after allowing one unearned run on four hits and six strikeouts in six innings.

Madisyn Tracy highlighted the first inning with a two-run double to give Joplin a 2-1 lead. Abby Lowery tripled home a run in the second before a second run came home on a passed ball. Yust picked up an RBI double in the fourth inning, while Libby Munn and McDaniel recorded RBI singles in the last of the fifth.

Tracy led the Eagles at the plate with two hits, including a double, two RBI and a run scored. Liz Snider had two hits and scored a run, while Ledford also recorded a pair of hits. Yust doubled, scored a run and drove in one, with Lowery adding a triple, a run scored and an RBI. Pankow tripled and scored a run. Munn and McDaniel each had hits, scored a run and drove in one.

Joplin is at McDonald County on Tuesday.



Branson scored nine runs in the first inning and eight more in the second on the way to a three-inning win over Carl Junction on Saturday.

Kaleah Morrison earned the win for the Pirates after allowing one hit, walking four and striking out two in three innings.

Hannah Cantrell took the loss for Carl Junction after allowing nine runs, one earned, on four hits and four walks in 2/3 of an inning. Emma Fleming allowed eight runs, three earned, on two hits, four walks and a strikeout in 2 1/3 relief innings.

Sierra Daily led Branson at the plate with two hits, including a triple, three RBI and a run scored. Langley Miller had a double, three RBI and scored twice.

Madi Olds led CJ with a 1-for-2 game at the plate.



Hillcrest scored four times in the first inning and crossed home six times in the third to build a 10-1 advantage on the way to the win over Carl Junction on Saturday.

Carl Junction scored five runs in the fourth inning to trim the deficit to four, with the rally ending there.

Cantrell led the Bulldogs at the plate with a perfect 3-for-3 game, scoring a run and driving in one. Allison Plumlee doubled, with Dezi Williams earning a hit, scoring a run and picking up an RBI. Olds and Addie Brock also recorded a hit. 

Hannah Cole took the loss after allowing 10 runs, two earned, on seven hits, four walks and two strikeouts in four innings.

Carl Junction hosts Cassville on Monday at 4:30.

CROSS COUNTRY: District format changed for 2021 season

The Missouri State High School Activities Association has changed the postseason format for the 2021 cross country season.

The number of district meets in each class has been reduced from eight to four.

At each district meet, the top four teams and the top 30 individuals will advance to the state meet. In the past, the top two teams from each district and the top 15 runners qualified for state. 

“I think it’s for the best,” Joplin coach Dustin Dixon said. “Anytime they realign the districts you always hope it works out for your team because you never know what teams you’re going to be paired up with. Overall, I think it was the right choice. It makes it more fair. It changes the race a little bit…it will be more congested. It also changes who can host.”

Webb City coach Dustin Miller agreed with Dixon.

“I love it,” Miller said of the changes. “I think it will ensure that better individuals get to the state championship. I really like the format.” 

The Class 4 and Class 5 state championships will be held on Nov. 5, while Class 1-3 will be held on Nov. 6. All state meets will once again be held at Gans Creek Cross Country Course in Columbia.  

District assignments for cross country should be released later this week.


Joplin’s Hobbs Campbell leads the way during Saturday’s boys cross country practice meet at Joplin South Middle School.


District assignments released for fall sports


The Missouri State High School Activities Association released its 2021 district assignments for softball, volleyball, girls tennis, girls golf, boys soccer and boys swimming on Friday. District assignments for cross country have not yet been released. 

Below is a look at area districts of interest by sport. 



Joplin and Carthage are in Class 5 District 6 with Springfield Central, Glendale, Kickapoo, Nixa, Ozark and Republic. 

Class 4 District 6 features Webb City, Carl Junction, Neosho, McDonald County, Branson, Hillcrest, Parkview and Willard. 

Seneca, Aurora, Cassville and Monett are in Class 3 District 4 with Rogersville, Reeds Spring, Salem and Willow Springs.




Joplin, Carthage and Neosho are in this district with Belton and Raymore-Peculiar. 



This district features Carl Junction, Webb City, McDonald County, Monett and Nevada. 



Teams in this district are Aurora, Cassville, Clever, Reeds Spring and Springfield Catholic.



Seneca, Lamar, East Newton, Mount Vernon and El Dorado Springs make up this district. 



Teams in this district are Diamond, Sarcoxie, Pierce City, Marionville and Southwest. 



College Heights Christian, McAuley Catholic and Thomas Jefferson are entered in Class 1 District 9 with Bronaugh, Jasper and Liberal. 



This district features Miller, Golden City, Lockwood, Everton, Greenfield, Northeast Vernon County and Sheldon. 



Joplin and Carthage are in Class 3 District 6 with Lee’s Summit, Lee’s Summit North, Lee’s Summit West and Raymore-Peculiar. 

Class 2 District 6 features Webb City, Carl Junction, Neosho, Hillcrest, Parkview and Willard. 

Class 1 District 12 consists of College Heights, Thomas Jefferson, Lamar and Nevada. Class 1 District 11 features Aurora, Mount Vernon, Monett, Clever and Reeds Spring.



Joplin is in Class 4 District 3, while Webb City, Carthage, Carl Junction and McDonald County are among the schools competing in Class 3 District 3. 

Seneca is in Class 2 District 2.



Class 4 District 5 will feature Joplin, Carthage, Springfield Central, Kickapoo, Nixa, Ozark, Republic and Waynesville. 

Webb City, Carl Junction, Neosho and McDonald County are in Class 3 District 6 with Bolivar, Grandview, Ruskin and Willard.

College Heights is in Class 1 District 6 with Cole Camp, Fair Grove, New Covenant and Stover. 



Joplin is the lone area school competing in Class 2.

Webb City, Carthage, Lamar and Monett are among the schools who are in Class 1. 


PREP FOOTBALL: MSHSAA releases district assignments for 2021 season


The Missouri State High School Activities Association released its 2021 district assignments for football on Friday.

Joplin is in Class 6 District 3 with Kickapoo, Lee’s Summit, Lee’s Summit North, Lee’s Summit West, Nixa, Ozark and defending state champion Raymore-Peculiar.

In Class 5, Webb City, Carthage and Neosho are in District 6 with Parkview, Republic and Willard.

Carl Junction is in Class 4 District 6 with McDonald County, Monett, Hillcrest, Rogersville, Marshfield and West Plains. 

The Seneca Indians are in Class 3 District 6 with Aurora, Buffalo, Cassville, Hollister, Mountain Grove and Reeds Spring.

In Class 2, Lamar, Mount Vernon and East Newton are in District 4 with Clever, El Dorado Springs, Fair Grove and Stockton. 

Class 1 District 3 features Diamond, Sarcoxie, Pierce City, Miller, Ash Grove, Cabool, Marionville and Thayer. 

In 8-Man football, Jasper, Liberal and Lockwood are among the teams in District 1.

GIRLS TENNIS: Joplin begins season at Kickapoo invite


The Joplin High School girls tennis team kicked off the 2021 season on Friday at the Kickapoo Invitational. 

The Eagles dropped three duals at the event. 

Bolivar defeated Joplin 5-1.

Joplin’s lone win came at No. 1 doubles, as Astrid Cardenas and Abry Stayton defeated McKinley Hedges and Sophia Vestal 7-5.

At No. 2 doubles, Bolivar’s Josie Douglas and Brynley Waters beat Cloey Blank and Brynn Driver 6-1. Joplin’s Madi Corl and Zayda Dergance suffered a 6-0 loss to Emma Geurin and Reagan Hunt. 

In completed singles matches, Bolivar’s Geurin beat Mya Ndedi-Ntepe 6-4, while Waters topped Driver 6-1 and Sarah Bowes defeated Corl 6-0.

Springfield Central defeated Joplin 5-0.

Central won the doubles matches 7-5, 6-1 and 6-0.

In completed singles matches, Kate Steingraber beat Corl 6-2 and Molly Scribner defeated Dergance 6-0.

Ozark edged Joplin 5-4.

In doubles, Joplin’s Cardenas and Stayton beat Hannah Metcalkf and Loren Newell 6-0, while Blank-Ndedi-Ntepe defeated Makenna Whitfield-Isabella Montileone 6-4.

Ozark’s Madison Morgan and Margaret Kensinger defeated Driver and Corl 6-1.

In singles, Cardenas beat Whitfield 6-0 and Stayton defeated Newell 6-0. 

Ozark’s Morgan defeated Blank 6-2, Montileone topped Ndedi-Ntepe 6-4, Kensinger beat Jadyn Elder 6-0 and Laura Wolf defeated Alex Carson 6-0.

Joplin returns to action on Monday at Thomas Jefferson.

PREP SOFTBALL: Joplin opens season with pair of wins in Branson/Aurora Bash; CJ falls twice

AURORA, Mo. — Joplin opened the season with a 12-1 win over Aurora and an additional 15-2 win over Carl Junction in the Branson-Aurora Bash on Friday to open the season 2-0.

Carl Junction fell to Aurora in their second game of the day. 


After a scoreless first inning, Joplin pushed across five runs in the second, three in the third, one in the fourth and three more runs in the fifth inning en route to a five inning win over Aurora to open the season.

The Eagles’ first runs of the season came across to score on a Libby Munn two-run home run in the top of the second for a 2-0 lead. Jadyn Pankow added a two-out three-run home run to left later in the inning to push the lead to 5-0.

Jill McDaniel had a two-run single while Abby Lowery added an RBI single in the third inning to make the score 8-0 in favor of Joplin. 

Bailey Ledford picked up and RBI on a sacrifice fly in the top of the fifth before Izzy Yust bought home Lowery with an RBI single to make the score 11-1. Liz Snider doubled home Yust later in the frame for a 12-1 advantage. 

McDaniel earned the win in the circle after allowing one run on two hits, a walk and six strikeouts in five innings of work.

Munn doubled and homered and drove in two, while Pankow had three hits, including a home run, and a team-high three RBI and two runs scored. Snider doubled for one of her two hits and drove in a run. McDaniel had two hits, drove in two and scored three runs.



Joplin started even faster in the second game, scoring seven times in the first inning before going on to close out the win over Carl Junction in five innings.

The Eagles’ seven-run first inning was highlighted by a two-run triple from Izzy Yust and a run-scoring single by Bailey Ledford. Madisyn Tracy, Ashley Phillips and Abby Lowery each added an RBI in the inning. 

Hope Oakley picked up an RBI on a groundout in the second to make the score 8-0.

Joplin’s third inning was highlighted by an RBI triple from Yust, an RBI double from Liz Snider and an RBI single by Oakley.

Yust drove in a run with a third triple of the game in the fourth inning before Taryn Casey added an RBI single to make the score 15-2. Jadyn Pankow had a sac fly RBI as well.

Pankow earned the win in the circle after allowing two runs on three hits, six walks and three strikeouts in four innings. Payton Jones pitched a scoreless inning in relief and walked one and struck out one.

Hannah Cole took the loss for Carl Junction after allowing 12 runs, five earned, on 10 hits, three walks and one strikeout. Emma Flemming allowed three unearned runs on two hits and two walks in one relief inning.

Yust had three triples, a team-high four RBI and scored three times to lead Joplin at the plate. Ledford, Snider, Tracy and Oakley each had two hits. Ledford scored once and drove in one, Snider scored three times and drove in one, while Oakley had two RBI and scored once with Tracy also picking up an RBI.

Addie Brock had two hits and scored a run to lead the Bulldogs, while Hannah Cantrell also picked up a hit. 



Carl Junction jumped out to a 3-0 lead before Aurora answered with six runs in the bottom of the first inning to take control. The Bulldogs scored two runs in the fourth and three more in the top of the fifth to jump in front 8-6 before the Houn’ Dawgs rallied for three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to defeat Carl Junction to wrap the Bulldogs’ play on the first day of the bash.

Abby Williams earned the win for Aurora after allowing eight runs, six earned, on 10 hits, six walks and five strikeouts in five complete innings.

Hannah Cantrell started and took the no-decision in the circle for Carl Junction after allowing six unearned runs on one hit, four walks and a strikeout in 2/3 of an inning. Hannah Cole allowed one run on two hits, a walk and a strikeout in 3 1/3 innings, while Jamie Fabozzi was saddled with the loss after allowing two unearned runs on one hit, a walk and a strikeout in 2/3 of an inning.

Madi Olds led Carl Junction at the plate with three hits, including a double, three RBI and two runs scored. Izzie Southern homered on the way to two hits, three RBI and a run scored, while Allison Plumlee had two hits and drove in two.

PREP SOFTBALL: Carthage splits first day of Rockwood Summit tourney to open season

FENTON, Mo. — Carthage softball opened the season by splitting a pair of games at the Rockwood Summit tournament on Friday.


Oakville scored five times in the first inning on the way to a win over Carthage in the Tigers’ first game on Friday.

Oakville started the scoring in the first when Mary Tutwiler singled home a run with one out before Savannah Hesse followed with a two-out, run-scoring single two batters later. Two more runners scored on the play to make the score 4-0. Lillianna Khale wrapped the scoring with an RBI groundout later in the inning.

Hesse earned the complete-game win in the circle after pitching seven scoreless innings, scattering three hits, walking one and striking out four.

Jensyn Elder took the loss for Carthage after allowing five runs, four earned, on seven hits, two walks and six strikeouts.

Tutwiler had two hits, an RBI and scored a run for Oakville. Hesse had two hits, a team-high three RBI and two runs scored.

Brooklyn Dolon-Main had two hits to lead Carthage at the plate, while Presley Probert went 1-for-3.



Carthage scored four times in the first, seven times in the second and three more runs in the third en route to the five-inning win over Cor Jesu Academy to close the first day of the Rockwood Summit tournament. 

The Tigers started the game with five straight walks that led to a pair of runs scoring before a sacrifice fly from Brooklynn Dolon-Main made the score 3-1. Ashlyn Bust added an RBI single in the next at-bat to push the lead to 4-1.

Presley Probert started the seven-run second scoring with a two-run triple before Jensyn Elder followed with a sac fly to make the score 7-2. An error later in the ining allowed another run to score before Mary Grace Richmond singled home two runs to push the lead to 10-2.

Natalie Rodrigues had an RBI triple in the third and Richmond added an RBI single later in the frame to highlight the scoring.

Elder earned the win in the circle after allowing two runs, one earned, on two hits, a walk and six strikeouts in three innings. Kate Potter allowed one hit, struck out two and walked on in two innings of relief work. 

times in the first inning on the way to a 5-0 win over Carthage on the first day of the Rockwood Summit tournament on Friday to open the season for CHS.

Oakville started the scoring in the first when Mary Tutwiler singled home a run with one out before Savannah Hesse followed with a two-out, run-scoring single two batters later. Two more runners scored on the play to make the score 4-0. Lillianna Khale wrapped the scoring with an RBI groundout later in the inning.

Hesse earned the win in the circle after pitching seven scoreless innings to earn the complete-game win. She scattered three hits, walked one and struck out four.

Jensyn Elder took the loss for Carthage after allowing five runs, four earned, on seven hits, two walks and six strikeouts.

Tutwiler had two hits, an RBI and scored a run for Oakville. Hesse had two hits, a team-high three RBI and two runs scored.

Brooklyn Dolon-Main had two hits to lead Carthage at the plate, while Presley Probert went 1-for-3.

PREP FOOTBALL: Last-second field goal lifts Joplin past Webb City in thrilling ’21 opener


WEBB CITY, Mo. — With the outcome of Friday’s intense rivalry clash hanging in the balance, Joseph Ipsen told himself to remain calm as he jogged onto the field.

In what was the most pressure-packed moment of his prep football career, the Joplin High School junior kicker came through in the clutch. 

Ipsen converted a last-second field goal from 42 yards out to lift Joplin past Webb City 41-40 in the opener of the 2021 season inside a packed Cardinal Stadium. 

“I had to keep my cool and not get stressed,” Ipsen said. “I had to go through the motions and just do my job. The kick felt good. As soon as I hit the ball I could tell it was going in. It’s a really great start to the season for us. I think a lot of people doubted that we could beat Webb. This one shows what can happen if we all do our jobs.” 

The Week 1 Joplin-Webb City meeting was once again an entertaining one. In fact, the term “great game” applies to this year’s matchup.

“It was like two big heavyweights in a title match,” Joplin coach Curtis Jasper said. “Everyone kept throwing haymakers. We were good enough to land the last one. It was a well-played game in every facet.”

The Cardinals led 24-13 before the Eagles recorded four unanswered touchdowns to take a 38-24 advantage with just over nine minutes left in the contest. 

Webb City made a valiant comeback, scoring 16 straight points late in the game, taking a 40-38 lead with just 46 seconds remaining.

But the Eagles weren’t finished. Led by standout senior quarterback Always Wright, the Eagles managed to pull close enough for one last shot.

After a timeout with five seconds left, Ipsen’s kick sailed through the uprights, giving Joplin its third straight victory over the Cardinals. 

“It was a great snap, a great hold and then Ipsen nailed it through, so it was awesome,” Jasper said. “I love my guys…the players, the coaching staff and the whole community. It’s the best.” 

Webb City coach John Roderique was pleased with his team’s effort and resiliency. 

“I’m unbelievably proud of our guys,” Roderique said. “What a great effort by our guys. I couldn’t be prouder. We were down two scores and it didn’t look very good. But our guys battled their tails off.” 

Roderique noted Friday’s outcome won’t define his team’s season. A couple of years ago the Cardinals dropped the opener to the Eagles and went on to win a state championship. After last year’s loss by the same score, the Cardinals recorded 11-straight wins and advanced to the semifinals. 

“For a first game, we played pretty good,” Roderique said. “We played really good at times. We’re always a team that gets a lot better throughout the course of the year. It’s one game. I’d say the same thing if we won tonight.” 

Joplin’s Quinton Renfro is tackled by Webb City’s Lucas Ott. Photo by Israel Perez.


Webb City went 66 yards on eight plays on the opening drive of the night, as Cade Wilson’s 8-yard run and Dupree Jackson’s 2-point conversion gave the hosts an 8-0 lead with 9:05 left in the first quarter.

After an interception by Joplin’s Robert Kelly, the Eagles got on the board when Wright scampered into the end zone from 3 yards out to cap an eight-play, 42-yard drive.

The 2-point conversion failed, giving the hosts an 8-6 lead at the 2:48 mark of the opening frame. 

Webb City extended its lead to 16-6 when Jackson charged into the end zone on a 10-yard run, followed by his 2-point conversion.

A halfback pass from Wilson to Eric Fitch set up the score, which came with just under a minute remaining in the first period. 

Webb City’s Dupree Jackson looks for running room during Friday’s game with Joplin at Cardinal Stadium. Photo by Israel Perez.

The Eagles pulled within three when Wright connected with Hudson Moore on a 17-yard touchdown strike with 8:53 left in the second quarter. The pass play finished off a nine-play, 65-yard drive.

Wilson’s second TD of the night, a 4-yard scamper, along with his ensuing 2-point conversion, gave Webb City a 24-13 advantage with 4:58 left in the first half. The Cardinals marched 74 yards on eight plays during the drive. 

Going to the air again and again, and going 81 yards on seven plays, Joplin struck just before the half, as Wright found an open Landen Atherton on a 2-yard pass with just nine seconds remaining in the opening half. 

The Eagles took a 25-24 lead at the 5:51 mark of the third period when a scrambling Wright found Bruce Wilbert open from 8 yards out. The 2-point try failed, however. 

Drew VanGilder scored a touchdown for the Joplin Eagles.

Terrance Gibson had a 34-yard receiving touchdown and Drew VanGilder scored on a 43-yard run to give the Eagles a 38-24 cushion.

For Webb City, Vaden’s 14-yard touchdown with 6:20 remaining and Wilson’s 6-yard run with 46 seconds left tied the game. A 2-point conversion run by Wilson gave the hosts a 40-38 lead.

Joplin’s Wright completed three key passes in the final minute before Ipsen’s game-winning field goal.

“The offensive line was unreal tonight,” Jasper said. “We played good defensive football. The players executed the game plan. They continued to be resilient…it was awesome. No one flinched on our side. No one hung their head at the end. We knew we could do it.” 

Of the game’s final play, Roderique said, “I should have called a timeout and had a block team out there. That’s on me.” 



Joplin’s Landen Atherton attempts to get past Webb City’s Landon Johnson.

Joplin finished with 439 yards of offense, 235 passing and 204 rushing. 

Wright, who received an offer from Drake University this week, completed 24 of 31 passes with three scores and no interceptions. 

“He has the poise to continue to make play after play,” Jasper said when asked about Wright’s performance. “We’ve got really good receivers who can catch the ball and a quarterback who can put it where it needs to be.” 

Moore hauled in six passes for 74 yards, while Quinton Renfro had five receptions for 61 yards and Atherton had seven catches for 37 yards.

VanGilder, a junior running back, totaled 127 rushing yards on 11 carries. 

For Joplin’s defense, Draven VanGilder was credited with eight tackles and Robert Kelly had seven.

Webb City had 442 yards of offense, 315 rushing and 127 passing.

Jackson ran 21 times for 167 yards, while Wilson contributed 90 yards on 16 carries with three scores. 

Vaden, making his first varsity start at QB, ran 14 times for 36 yards and completed 7 of 9 passes for 102 yards. 

Jackson hauled in one pass for 44 yards, while William Hayes had four catches for 38 yards. 

Linebackers Cooper Crouch and Lucas Ott led the Webb City defense. Crouch was credited with 13 tackles, while Ott had nine stops. 

Webb City was flagged 14 times for 115 yards, while Joplin had nine penalties for 55 yards. 

Joplin became the first team to knock off Webb City in three straight seasons since Mount Vernon pulled off four straight wins in 1984, ’85, ’86 and ’87. 


In Week 2, Joplin hosts Nixa and Webb City travels to Neosho. 



Joplin            6  13  6  1641

Webb City  16   8   0   1640

Scoring Summary

First Quarter

WC: Cade Wilson 8 run (Dupree Jackson run)

JOP: Always Wright 3 run (Pass failed)

WC: Jackson 10 run (Jackson run)

Second Quarter

JOP: Hudson Moore 17 pass from Wright (Joseph Ipsen kick)

WC: Wilson 4 run (Wilson run)

JOP: Landen Atherton 2 pass from Wright (Kick failed)

Third Quarter

JOP: Bruce Wilbert 8 pass from Wright (Pass failed)

Fourth Quarter

JOP: Terrance Gibson 34 pass from Wright (Run failed)

JOP: Drew VanGilder 43 run (Ipsen kick)

WC: Vaden 14 run (Pass to Josh Howard)

WC: Wilson 6 run (Wilson run)

JOP: Joseph Ipsen 42 field goal. 


The Webb City defense, including Brentan Wilson, Cooper Crouch, Kaylor Darnell and Landon Johnson, converge on Joplin’s Landen Atherton during Friday’s game in Webb City. All photos by Israel Perez.


Joplin’s Bruce Wilbert looks to bring down Webb City’s Cohl Vaden.

PREP FOOTBALL: Carl Junction routs Willard to kick off 2021

After a rocky first quarter the Carl Junction Bulldogs started their season off with a bang, routing the Willard Tigers  39-13 on Friday at Bulldog Stadium.

Things looked bleak for the Bulldogs (1-0, 1-0 COC) after a pair of failed drives in the first quarter and Willard (0-1, 0-1 COC) getting on the board first with 10:28 to go in the first half, on a 4-yard run by Tyler Janes, the point after kick failed and the Tigers were up 6-0.

It was the last time Willard would have the lead.

Carl Junction answered back quickly, sitting at 3rd and 10 on their own 28, quarterback Kyler Perry connected with Cody Hollingsworth for a 72-yard touchdown pass and after the extra point kick, the Bulldogs were up 7-6.

The Tigers tried to answer back, and a 50-yard run by Janes put Willard in a good position to score, but the next pass was picked off by Arlen Wakefield to put a stake in the heart of the drive.

The Bulldogs would go on to score again at 5:24 left in the half after a deep pass and a personal foul call let Perry rumble in from 2 yards out. The kick failed and it was 13-6.

The next score came at 26 seconds left in the half with a four yard run by Perry with another failed kick, leaving the score 19-6.

With 14 seconds left in the half Willard made a near-fatal error, by attempting to run a play rather than simply take a knee and let the clock expire, a fumble was recovered by Carl Junction and after two failed attempts to drive in, the Bulldogs had to settle for a 26-yard field goal, leaving the score at 22-6 at the half.

A pair of penalties — pass interference and a personal foul, hit to the head — put the Tigers within striking distance, and with 2:51 left in the third, Owen Bushnell rumbled in for a 4-yard run, the point after was good and the score sat at 22-13.

Seconds later, Aiden Bard would take it to the house with a 90-yard kickoff return, the kick was good and the score with 2:36 left in the period was 29-13.

With 11:41 to go in the game, the Bulldog’s Tony Stewart busted through for a 15-yard run, and after the kick the score sat at 36-13.

The Tigers attempted to respond, but with 9:51 left in the game Chance Benford picked off Janes, but on the first play from scrimmage a bad snap left the Bulldogs with second and 19, and the Bulldogs were forced to punt. One booming kick later and Carl Junction downed the ball on the 1-yard , and the Tigers were starting with their back to the wall.

With just over three minutes to go, the Bulldogs had a touchdown called back on an illegal shift, and had to settle for a 27 yard field goal, for the final score of the game leaving the contest at 39-13.

Carl Junction travels to Carthage (1-0) in Week 2.

PREP FOOTBALL: Carthage opens 2021 with 49-14 win over Ozark

OZARK, M0. — The Carthage Tigers wasted no time shaking off any offseason rust that had accumulated in their season-opening matchup against Ozark on Friday. 

On just the second play from scrimmage, senior defensive end Max Williams scooped up a fumble and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown, giving Carthage a 7-0 lead before the offense had set foot on the field. 

When it did get a chance, the Tiger offense picked up right where it left off last fall, cruising to a 49-14 victory. 

“You know, we jumped on them early with that fumble recovery, it kind of set the tone there,” said coach Jon Guidie. “I thought offensively we were really, really efficient in the first half and did some nice things. There was one possession there that got away from us, but mostly I thought we were really efficient.”

In his first start as quarterback, senior Caden Kabance had four touchdowns and 166 yards on the ground, including a 92-yard dash in the second quarter after one of three turnovers on downs Carthage forced on Ozark. 

“He’s a kid that coming into the year certainly had a lot of pressure on him to fill the shoes that Patrick Carlton  left,” Guidie said. “Patrick being a three-year starter for us, and as good as he was, you know, Caden stepped into that role and to be as productive as he was Week 1, says a lot about him, says a lot about his character and certainly his abilities as an athlete and a quarterback.”

Kabance wasn’t the only Carthage Tiger with a big play as senior running back/linebacker Luke Gall took the first play of the second half 80 yards for a touchdown. Also scoring for Carthage on the night was senior Cale Patrick, who took a sweep around the left end 8 yards for his touchdown. 

On defense, it was a matter of bend-don’t-break for Carthage as Ozark threatened in Carthage territory multiple times. Three times, Ozark began a drive at its own 41 or closer to the end zone, and plays of 58 and 69 yards on two other drives looked to set up scoring chances for them, but none translated into points for the Tigers. The results of those drives: Three turnovers on downs and two punts. 

“We kind of talked about that before the game, who handles adversity better?” Guidie said. ”We gave up those two big plays defensively, but we ran them down, we pursued and we stopped a touchdown on both of them. And our defense did a good job of bowing up in those opportunities, stopping them and getting the ball back.”  

Ozark’s two touchdowns came late in the game as Carthage had sat a slew of regulars on both sides of the ball.

“I think that’s a big part of building a program is having the ability to do that,” Guidie said. “Those young kids work so hard, they work as hard as anybody during the week, running scout teams and doing their best to mimic the other team’s offense and defense that we’re seeing that week. To give those guys a chance to go into varsity football, they were so excited and we were excited for them.” 

Carthage will host Carl Junction next week at David Haffner Stadium, a rematch of a game a year ago where the Tigers prevailed 21-20 thanks to a late touchdown pass from Carlton with just 5:53 to play.

PREP FOOTBALL: Republic hands Neosho 47-12 loss in season opener

REPUBLIC, Mo. — Republic scored six unanswered touchdowns on the way to spoiling first-year Neosho coach Brandon Taute’s debut as the Tigers earned a 47-12 win over the Wildcats on Friday to open the prep football season.

Republic (1-0, 1-0 COC) took the opening possession and used a 55-yard run from Connor Sandridge to set up a 4-yard touchdown from Avery Moody at the 10:31 mark of the opening quarter.

After the Wildcats (0-1, 0-1 COC) turned the ball over on downs near midfield on their opening possession, the Tigers answered back with a 6-yard touchdown run from Sandridge to build the lead to 12-0 with less than six minutes to play in the first quarter.

Republic had a pair of touchdowns called back because of penalties late in the first quarter before crossing the goal line for a third time in the first half on a 1-yard run from Kanon Krol with 8:05 to play in the first half, pushing the lead to 19-0.

Moody made the score 26-0 midway through the second quarter when he broke free for a 69-yard touchdown run.

The Tigers added a 22-yard touchdown run from Sandridge with 2:10 left in the first half to extend the Republic lead to 33-0. 

Sandridge added another touchdown from 18-yards out with 3:04 left in the third quarter to make the score 40-0, starting the running clock.

Neosho got on the scoreboard for the first time in 2021 on a 19-yard touchdown run from running back Jared Siler with one minute to play in the third quarter to make the score 40-6.

Moody answered back with a 55-yard touchdown run on the next series to give Republic a 47-6 lead over the Wildcats.

Neosho added a score late when Evan Haskins found Isaiah Green on a fade pass to wrap the scoring.

The Wildcats host Webb City at 7 p.m. on Friday in the Week 2 matchup.

FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Hilburn takes over alma mater, ready to lead Seneca

Seneca football has a new look heading into the 2021 season, as Cody Hilburn has taken over the program of his alma mater after spending the last 10 years with Carthage football.

“It’s different when you get to come home,” Hilburn said. “That is where my kids go to school, they always have, but it’s special getting to come home and coach where you graduated from.”

“Anytime there is a change, it adds to the excitement,” Hilburn added about his team’s readiness for the upcoming season. “Also, add the excitement of the new field turf almost being done, and the community is on fire right now. We are ready to get going.”

Hilburn is taking over for former coach Ryan McFarland, who is now the offensive coordinator for Webb City. Hilburn, working under head coach Jon Guidie, was a part of plenty of successful teams while with the Tigers, including the school’s first ever state title run in 2019. That experience on the sidelines, including the successes of helping to build a program will go a long way for Hilburn as he takes over the Indians’ program.

“I loved my time at Carthage, and I told Coach Guidie there is really only one job I would consider leaving Carthage for and it happened to be the Seneca job,” Hilburn said. “We did some great things at Carthage. They have a great program. Because I was there for so long, I got to see what championship football looked like, and that is kind of the model (we want to use here).”

Highlighting the list of returners for the Indians include senior Ethan Fritchey (QB), senior Jaxson Graham (RB, all-Big 8), senior RB/LB Dane Napier (all-Big 8 LB), senior OL/DL Tanner Nesvold, senior OL/DL Brock Hultman, senior OL/DL David Cooper, junior OL/DL Chris Alexander, senior TE/LB Gabe Commons and junior WR Conner Ackerson.

“Those are some guys who have done a good job of leading this football team all summer,” Hilburn said. “I count on them in the locker room and to make some plays this fall.”

Additional players who figure to make an impact at the varsity level include junior RB/LB Lincoln Renfro, junior RB/LB Dominick Wheeler and junior TE/DB Jordan Allen.

Hilburn plans to run an offense similar to what Carthage runs, a two-back spread with multiple looks. The focus, though, will be making sure the offense is built around the Seneca players and not forcing the players into the wrong fit.

“I think we have some good kids who are committed and bought in to be playing our best football by Week 10,” Hilburn said of the mindset of his team leading into the season. “I think we are going to continue to grow each and every week. We have a ton of inexperience, so we are still trying to get kids in the correct spot and figure out what their roles will be.”

Seneca opens the season at home against Marshfield at 7 p.m. on Friday. 

“All we preach to our kids is to get better every day,” Hilburn said. “Let’s get better by at least one percent every single day and see where we are at by the end of the year.”