Nixa’s defense set the tone from the opening kickoff against Branson on Saturday afternoon, yielding just 6 total yards from scrimmage in the Pirates’ first three possessions as the Eagles jumped to an early lead and ran away with a 35-2 Central Ozark Conference Large Division victory.
“We came out fired up and hit them in the mouth,” Nixa senior defensive lineman J.D. Payne said.
“We fired off on all cylinders. Everyone on defense played really well and I don’t think we could have looked much better in a week three game than we did today.”
Perhaps the postponement of the game’s regularly scheduled Friday night start time was a big help for Nixa (3-0, 1-0), the 10th-ranked team in Class 5.
“I think playing today really helped us out a lot,” Payne said.
“We were just sitting around in the locker room (Friday night) for a couple of hours and we didn’t know what was going to happen or when we were going to play.
“But I’m really glad we got to come out today and go through our pregame rituals all over again and stay fired up through the two hours before today’s game.”
Going into a stout north wind in the first quarter, Branson (1-2, 0-1) struggled to gain ground and gave the ball back to Nixa on the Pirates’ 43-yard line.
Six plays later, senior quarterback Austin Schweiss ran the ball in for a 5-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead just four minutes into the game.
Nixa’s defense didn’t allow a yard on Branson’s next possession and set the Eagles’ offense up at the Pirates’ 39-yard line.
It took just seven plays for Nixa to score on its second possession, when senior Ruben Guzman scored on a 3-yard run.
“Our defense set us up in some really good spots early,” Nixa coach Richard Rehagen said.
“We had good field position in the first quarter and we were able to do quite a bit with it.”
The Eagles’ next scoring drive started early in the second quarter at Branson’s 35-yard line after a fumbled long snap during a failed Pirates’ punt attempt.
Sophomore Alec Murphy scored on a 4-yard run to give Nixa a 21-0 lead with 9:23 remaining in the first half.
“(Nixa) dominated the line of scrimmage all day long,” Branson coach Steve Hancock said.
“We couldn’t get anything going offensively and we lost field position going into the wind and we set them up with some good scoring opportunities and they scored quickly.”
In the third quarter, Schweiss connected with senior receiver Carney Wilmes for a 39-yard touchdown pass over the top of the Branson secondary to give the Eagles a 28-2 lead.
“It was a good ball,” Wilmes said. “At first I thought (Schweiss) overthrew me, but I was so happy that I was able to run underneath it and catch it and score.”
Schweiss found Wilmes again in the fourth quarter for a 47-yard touchdown down the right sideline for a 35-2 lead with 8:57 left in the game.
“Our offensive line did a great job,” Schweiss said. “We had a lot of time to throw and that’s what did it for us in the passing game.”
Schweiss led Nixa with 12 carries for 48 yards and a touchdown and was 6-for-10 passing for 119 yards and two touchdowns.
Senior Ricky Ward led Branson with 102 yards on 12 carries.