Three weeks ago, a second-half comeback helped Republic stay in the game against Carthage until the fourth quarter. Friday night, that comeback didn’t materialize. After a big first half, Carthage pulled away for a 49-10 victory in the district semifinals.
“I think the big difference for us offensively was [Carthage] changed everything. We anticipated it, we practiced and we expected that,” says Republic coach Dustin Baldwin. “But … they were not going to let us run the ball like we did last time, and they made an effort to stack the box … and we just didn’t connect on a lot of things that we thought we could.”
Forced to throw the ball by Carthage’s gameplan, Republic’s offense never found a rhythm. After starting the game by completing seven of 14 passes, quarterback Lucas Hayes threw ten straight incomplete passes. Meanwhile, Carthage’s offense was nearly unstoppable.
“They’re a really good team and they’re very physical and we weren’t able to get them off the field like we needed to,” Baldwin says.
Republic’s best opportunity to stay in the game came after the Tigers cut the Carthage lead to 21-10 with a touchdown by Riley Sigman. With a little over two minutes remaining in the second quarter, Republic had an opportunity to carry some momentum into the second half. But Carthage scored again before halftime, and a two-point conversion made it 29-10 at the break.
Republic tried an on-side kick to begin the third quarter, and nearly recovered the loose ball, but Carthage jumped on it, then proceeded to score again, putting the game away.
Republic ends its season with a 3-8 record. Baldwin says there are lessons to draw from this season for future years–especially after losing three close, winnable games to start the year.
“I hope our younger guys learned some things just by the way the first three games transpired, and that you have to be ready to go when the season starts and take advantage of those opportunities early,” he says. “ And I was proud of the way that we got better as the season went on. And I know it didn’t show as much tonight, but there’s no doubt we’re a better football team.
“If we wouldn’t have dug ourselves a hole [with an 0-4 start], we would have been playing Nixa or Parkview tonight and had a two seed and a home game, probably.”
Carthage advances to play Parkview. The Vikings beat Nixa in overtime to advance to the district championship game.