Austin Roberts talked to reporters after Ozark’s win over Nixa as fireworks blasted behind him.
The fireworks were already planned. But they might as well have been in celebration of Ozark’s return to the forefront of the southwest Missouri football scene.
Roberts rushed for 156 yards and two touchdowns, and Ozark stopped a two-game losing streak to its rival with a 41-21 blasting of Nixa on Friday night.
The victory improved Ozark to 7-0, with a matchup against state No. 1 Webb City looming next week.
And while that game will be big enough on its own, Friday night was for celebrating for the Tigers and their fans.
“The joy of it is overwhelming,” Roberts said. ” I was looking up into the stands, and seeing all those people so happy… it’s pretty great.”
Ozark dominated from the start, scoring on its first two drives and holding Nixa to 67 first-half yards while building a 28-7 halftime lead.
The highlight of the first 24 minutes was Roberts’ highlight-reel 80-yard touchdown run, when he broke multiple tackles in the backfield and raced up the Ozark sideline to put the Tigers up 21-7.
Ozark had 237 yards by halftime, slowed only by eight penalties for 82 yards. The Tigers averaged nearly eight yards per play in the first two quarters.
“We got behind early and definitely played uphill the rest of the way,” Nixa coach Rich Rehagen said. “There’s more than one of them that can hurt you. All three of those runners, between the quarterback and the running back and wingback, they can all hurt you and just definitely kept us off balance.”
It was actually four backs who gashed the Nixa defense. Besides Roberts, Seth Wheeler ran 20 times for 101 yards, Cody Lindsay carried 17 times for 75 yards and three touchdowns, and David Salazar added 14 carries for 59 yards and a score.
It was part of an Ozark rushing attack that finished with 383 rushing yards as the Tigers beat Nixa for the first time since this year’s seniors were freshmen. The last two Nixa wins in the series accounted for two of the largest margins of victory in games between the schools. That included a 37-7 win last season in Nixa.
“That was one of the things we talked about all summer,” Ozark coach Mark Bliss said. “If people could have seen how hard these kids worked all summer to get to this point… They understood what it would take.”
Austin Schweiss threw for 109 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 72 to lead Nixa’s offense. The Eagles (5-2) scored on a 20-yard pass play on the last play of the game for the final margin.
The win secured Ozark a first-round bye in the Class 5 state playoffs. A win over Neosho in two weeks will give the Tigers the district championship.