James Rexroat goes up for a pass in the second half at Carthage. (by Steve Rackley / Flat Top Photos)

Republic Can’t Connect in District Loss at Carthage

Republic’s turnaround football season hit a final roadblock Friday in a 28-14 loss to Carthage (10-1) in the district championship game. The state’s top-ranked team in Class 5 scored two quick touchdowns in the first quarter, then held off Republic on a bitterly cold and windy night in Carthage.

That wind played a big part in the game all night, whipping steadily from the north end zone to the south end zone. Republic’s offense was headed into the wind in the first quarter, and when the Carthage defense shut down Republic’s run game, the passing game was unable to compensate.

“They pinned us deep a couple times with that wind, and it was stronger than what we wanted. It has hard to throw into it,” said coach Ryan Cornelsen. “I felt like in the first quarter, we got pinned deep and obviously they were able to score.”

Carthage scored on its first two drives of the game, first on a 19-yard run by running back Luke Gall, then on a 33-yard run by quarterback Cooper Jadwin. That gave Carthage a 14-0 lead with 1:26 left in the first quarter.

In the second quarter, with the wind at its back, Republic moved the ball more effectively. The Tigers finally got on the board with just under seven minutes remaining in the second quarter on a touchdown pass from Wyatt woods to James Rexroat. The extra-point snap was high, leaving the score 14-6.

Carthage put one more touchdown on the board just before the break. A 12-play, 80-yard drive culminated in a three-yard run by Jadwin to make the score 21-6.

In addition to its difficulty with the wind, for the first time in several weeks, costly penalties hurt Republic. The Tigers’ ball-control offense, which relies on consistent positive yardage, often found itself in 2nd- and 3rd-and-long situations, and couldn’t overcome them.

“We haven’t had penalties like that in a long time. I don’t know how many yards and penalties we had, but it was drastic compared to what it’s been the previous five weeks,” said Cornelsen.

Carthage scored on its first drive of the second half when Gall ran the ball into the end zone from one yard out, pushing the lead to 28-6, but Republic answered with another score and the defense played well enough to keep the game close.

“I thought our defense played really well. That’s a good offense. I thought we were really physical, we just couldn’t get anything going offensively,” said Cornelsen.

Republic did get one final score after its most sustained drive of the night. The Tigers drove 79 yard in 13 plays, scoring on another TD pass from Woods to Rexroat. A sliding grab by Rexroat on another pass completed a two-point conversion to make the score 28-14.

Republic’s defense forced a turnover on downs on the next Carthage possession, but with the wind back in Republic’s face in the fourth quarter, their next drive stalled out. Carthage was able to run out the clock from there.

“You can’t fault their effort,” Cornelsen said of his players. “They played hard and we were trying to find something. We could find it when the wind was at our back, but it was pretty tough when the wind was in our face to find some of those passes.”

Republic finished with 196 total yards to Carthage’s 345. Republic rushed for 110 yards and passed for 86.

Wyatt Woods connected on five of 14 passes for 86 yards and two touchdowns. He finished the year with more than 1,000 passing yards. He also rushed for 42 yards.

Conner Sandridge finished with 60 yards on 15 carries. That pushed him past 1,000 yards for the season.

James Rexroat caught three passes for 37 yards and two touchdowns.

Carthage advances to the state quarterfinals against Lebanon. Republic ends its season at 8-4. It’s the best record for a Republic team since 2007. After winning 13 games combined in the five seasons before 2021, Republic has won 14 games in the last two season since Cornelsen arrived.

“I’m just extremely proud of them,” Cornelsen said. “The crowd was unbelievable. The fans and the town supported them, and they created that environment. It wasn’t like that when we started the season, and it was like that when we ended. It was because of their effort and finding ways to win games, and they were exciting to watch. I couldn’t be prouder of our team and what we were able to do. We just fell a little short tonight.”


Republic struggled to throw the ball on a windy night in Carthage, but James Rexroat was a reliable target for Wyatt Woods. Rexroat caught only three passes, but two of them were difficult, contested catches for touchdowns. He also made a sliding grab for a two-point conversion in the second half, and he’s our Farr Better Player of the Game.

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