There was no Neosho upset this time.
Kickapoo started the Class 5 state football playoffs in style, dominating Neosho in all phases for a 43-16 win Thursday in the first round of Class 5 District 5 play.
The Chiefs (6-4) advance to play No. 2 seed Nixa on Wednesday night — Halloween night — in the district semifinals.
Kickapoo made Thursday night a house of horrors for Neosho. The Chiefs scored on five straight possessions and got a fumble return for a touchdown to lead 43-8 midway through the third period.
Punts on their first and last possessions and an interception in the end zone on their second possession were the only times the Chiefs didn’t find the end zone.
It was a welcome sight for Kickapoo, which had been upset by Neosho each of the last two seasons.
“Sure there was (a revenge factor),” Kickapoo coach Joel Wells said. Last year we were up 21-0 on them and got beat. Our kids had a great week of practices this week, and they did not take them for granted.”
Tanner Jones ran for 114 yards and a touchdown in just over two quarters of work to pace a Kickapoo offense that rang up 299 rushing yards. Most of that — 214 yards — came in the first half.
Four Kickapoo ball carriers had at least 48 yards, and five Chiefs scored touchdowns. Anthony Cooper rushed for 64 yards and a score on five carries, John Fuchs added 51 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries and Tony Grant finished with 48 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries.
“Yeah, we definitely had that on our minds,” Jones said of Neosho’s last two wins in the series. “We should have won both of those games.”
Neosho, running a triple-option offense installed at mid-season, rushed for 155 yards on just 21 carries in the first half but could muster only 110 total yards after halftime. The Wildcats had 122 yards against the Kickapoo reserves in the fourth quarter after being held to minus-12 yards in the third period.
“We needed to play well and gain some confidence for next week,” Wells said.
The loss dropped Neosho to 0-10, the Wildcats’ first winless season since 1989. It is just the second time since 1949 that Neosho has gone without a victory.
The Wildcats were led by Ryan Taylor’s 109 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. Christian Lopez had three carries for 24 yards and a score before leaving the game with an injury after the first play of the third quarter.
In Nixa, the Chiefs will face a team that lost two of three games to end the regular season.
“We really feel like we have a chance to win the district title,” Jones said. “We feel like we can go beat Nixa and then beat Ozark.”
Wells echoed his running back’s confidence.
“The way we look at it, we’re 1-0 right now. The kids feel good about themselves,” Wells said. “If we go down there and play like we’re capable of, we’ll give ourselves a chance.”