After a slow start, Republic revved up on both sides of the ball in a runaway win over Branson 34-9 in the opening round of district play. The Tigers avenged a season-opening 17-13 loss to the Pirates, improving to 3-7 and advancing to the district semifinals at top-seeded Carthage next week.
The game opened slowly, with both teams making mistakes that were more indicative of an early-season game, including multiple penalties, dropped balls and turnovers. Republic finally broke through with 5:08 left in the second quarter when Jaden Duvall returned a punt 88 yards for a touchdown. He took the ball on the left sideline, slanted across the field, and knocked over the right pylon at the goal line for the game’s first score. The extra point made it 7-0.
“We kind of struggled with some things early. We made some mistakes and penalties. I was thinking ‘Here we go again,'” Baldwin says. “[In the] second quarter, Jaden’s punt return really got us sparked on both sides of the ball. We started executing a little better.”
The Tigers scored again late in the second quarter after a Branson turnover on downs. Lucas Hayes finished off a 74-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown run to make it 13-0, but the extra point was no good.
Branson scored its first points of the night just before halftime on a field goal by Justice Webber, and Republic led 13-3 at half.
Republic extended its lead with 3:17 left in the third quarter on a one-yard run by Riley Sigman, making it 20-3. The Tigers put the game away with 9:28 left in the fourth quarter. Lucas Hayes shoveled the ball to Louis Wallace, who ran it into the end zone to make it 27-3.
Republic’s final touchdown came with 5:01 remaining on a 28-yard touchdown pass from Hayes to Cam Flood, and Republic led 34-3. A Branson touchdown on a scramble by quarterback Gabe Sylvester with 20 seconds left accounted for the final score of 34-9.
Baldwin credits the Tigers’ mostly mistake-free football in the second half with their ability to pull away. “Sometimes that’s all it comes down to, is [to] do the basic things we practice every day and don’t mistakes.”
Hayes finished the game with 110 passing yards and two passing touchdowns, with six completions in 10 attempts. He also rushed for 44 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.
Riley Sigman ran for 59 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.
Republic advances to play Carthage on the road next Friday. Carthage beat Republic 42-26 two weeks ago.