Experience won out in Carl Junction’s 28-21 win over Republic at Carl Junction Friday. The Bulldogs’ senior-laden squad made fewer mistakes and took advantage of a handful of key Tiger errors to escape with a win.
The first half was dominated by defense, with Republic managing just 38 yards on offense. Carl Junction moved the ball for 169 yards, but each team only got in the end zone one time in the first half.
The first big play of the game was a defensive play by Avery Moody, who blocked a field goal attempt to keep the game scoreless in the first quarter. But Republic’s offense couldn’t take advantage of the break, and after a punt, Carl Junction scored on a 21-yard pass from Alex Baker to Noah Southern to take a 7-0 lead.
Republic’s only scoring drive of the half came in the final minutes of the second quarter, aided by a pass interference penalty that helped the Tigers move into Carl Junction territory for the first time. After the penalty, Avery Moody led the Tigers into the end zone. The drive included an 18-yard rush by Moody and a 10-yard touchdown pass from Moody to Ezekiel Meads with 1:09 remaining to tie the score.
The Tigers got the ball to start the second half, but the opening kickoff was a sign of things to come. Republic fumbled the kickoff and a Carl Junction player picked it up and ran it into the end zone to give the Bulldogs the lead. It was one of four muffed kick returns by the Tigers in the second half.
Carl Junction made it a two-touchdown lead with 8:53 left in the third on a five-yard pass to Brady Sims, running the score to 21-7. But Republic struck back after getting the ball in Carl Junction territory. The Tigers went 23 yards to score on a 15-yard run by Josh Sterling, and they trailed 21-14.
The Bulldogs responded with one of the most sustained drives of the night, going 69 yards in five plays. A 50-yard pass from Baker to Drew Patterson helped give Carl Junction a cushion again at 28-14. But on the ensuing kickoff, the Tigers used a bobbled kick to their advantage. After Ezekiel Meads mishandled the kickoff, he picked it up and took advantage of over-aggressiveness by Carl Junction’s coverage team. He split the coverage and scampered 76 yards to make the score 28-21.
The Republic defense, which played well most of the night, got one more stop and set up possible heroics for the Tigers with a last-minute drive, but the Bulldogs sacked Gavyn Beckner twice and shut down Republic’s last-ditch effort to secure the win.
“Carl Junction’s defense has been good all year. They held Carthage to 21 points. They held Webb to 28, and that’s their lowest total of the year, so it wasn’t a surprise to us that they were difficult to move the ball on,” said coach Dustin Baldwin. “That said, we had the ball inside the two (yard line) there and didn’t score. We had a whole bunch of other chances. Our defense gave us great field position many times, and we just couldn’t do anything with it.”
Republic managed 155 total yards of offense – 82 passing and 73 rushing. Carl Junction totaled 369 yards – 199 passing and 170 rushing.
The Bulldogs improve to 3-4, and the Tigers fall to 2-5. Republic has lost five straight after a 2-0 start. The Tigers will host Carthage next Friday.