It would have been nice to cap off homecoming week with a victory Friday, and early in the contest against Joplin, it seemed Waynesville may pull it off.
Joplin returned the opening kickoff to midfield, muddling a previously enthusiastic crowd. On Joplin's second play from scrimmage, however, senior defensive back Dylan Newcomb brought the home crowd back to life with an interception inside the red zone, returned to the Waynesville 22.
A storm of Waynesville turnovers followed.
On the offense's first play from scrimmage, Newcomb fumbled the snap, giving the ball right back to Joplin, which scored a 5-yard rushing touchdown a few plays later to take a 7-0 lead with 10:06 left in the first quarter.
The following drive resulted in a punt for Waynesville, downed at the Joplin 12-yard line. Each team traded three-and-out series before Joplin caught another break. On fourth-and-short, a Joplin punt was negated by an offside penalty that resulted in a Joplin first down. Waynesville's defense hung tough again, holding Joplin to a 40-yard field goal, extending the lead to 10-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Another Waynesville miscue, a muffed kickoff just outside the Waynesville 40, gave the ball right back to Joplin in hostile territory. Again, Waynesville's defense, led by the efforts of the secondary, stopped Joplin's passing attack. Their drive stalled inside the red zone after a holding penalty forced a third-and-long situation. On fourth down, Joplin was able to nail another field goal, a 39-yard kick, to tack on three points and extend the lead to 13-0.
Waynesville coach Rick Vernon was proud of his defense for holding Joplin to several long field goal attempts Friday.
“[The coaches] felt very good about the defense,” Vernon said. “They played very well Friday night and we had a great defensive scheme going, but you have to have both sides of the ball to be successful.”
Waynesville was in dire need of gaining offensive rhythm on its next possession. After calling for a fair catch on the ensuing kickoff, senior running back Warren Womack busted a 61-yard touchdown run on the second play from scrimmage – a play which brought the team back to life. A bad snap on the PAT cut the Joplin lead to seven with 10:48 to play in the first half.
“We put the new offensive system in a week ago with a fullback,” Vernon said. “If we open some holes, we've got some running backs that can run the ball. Our young offensive lineman just need to get better week-by-week, and we'll get better come next week.”
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Even after the score seemed to give Waynesville a boost, Joplin responded wth a long, methodical drive – 53 yards to the Waynesville 39-yard line. Womack then lifted Waynesville again with the team's second interception in the end zone to save a touchdown.
On the next posession, Waynesville turned the ball over again after Newcomb threw his first interception of the season. The Waynesville defense stood its ground once again, keeping Joplin from scoring before the half.
With a 13-6 lead at halftime, Joplin never let up.
Less than three minutes into the third quarter Joplin scored on a 32-yard touchdown pass, pushing the lead to 20-6.
Both teams triumphed on defense for the reamainder of the game until Joplin added the last score of the game, a 41-yard field goal with 8:21 left in the game.
Joplin won 23-6.
“It all came down to turnovers,” Vernon said. “All [Joplin's] points came from some type of turnover whether it be jumping offsides, interceptions or a fumble.”
Newcomb was intercepted twice in the game, and also fumbled a snap. On special teams, Waynesville fumbled twice, giving Joplin superior field position and scoring opportunities. In the first quarter, an offside penalty gave Joplin a first down. Each turnover turned into a Joplin scoring opportunity.
Joplin had a few setbacks of its own after being called for nine holding penalties and two personal fouls.
“We made [Joplin] punt quite a few times and got ourselves in good field position,” Vernon said. “They just took advantage of us up front with their big defensive lineman; they controlled the line of scrimmage for most of the game.”
Waynesville (2-4) travels to Camdenton this week in another Ozark Conference game.
“We're going from week-to-week and our players are working very hard,” Vernon said. “Our kids are continually getting better and that's where we stand right now [looking forward to playing Camdenton].”
The game will take place Friday at 7 p.m.