Log in

Ozark defense not able to get off field in second half of Homecoming loss to Carthage


As Carthage began to establish ball-control Friday, Ozark running back Jack Bowers and defensive end Johnny Williams kept a positive mindset and looked at the bright side of things.

“After pushing during a lot of hard drives, it was kind of refreshing,” Bowers said of the rest for Ozark’s offense.

“I was kind of grateful, every minute counts when you're a senior and we only have three (regular-season) games left,” said Williams, who welcomed reps after missing three games due to an injured ankle.

Eventually, though, Bowers received far too much of a rest to his liking and Williams and his defensive cohorts were frustrated by being on the field much too long. 

Ozark (1-5) had just two, count 'em two, offensive series in the second half and was shut out over the third and fourth quarters of its 34-20 Homecoming loss.

“I look up and it's been four minutes and we're still on the sideline,” Bowers said. “We needed defensive stops. Carthage is really good at chewing the clock.”

“A lot of people were saying, ‘This sucks being on the field this long and we're tired,’” Williams said. “We put our hearts into it. But we have to be mentally tough. We have to adapt and overcome in those kind of situations.”

Carthage (3-3) was 3-for-3 converting on fourth down in the second half and also converted on third down several times.

Carthage coach Jon Gudie even opted not to punt on fourth-and-one at Carthage’s own 20-yard line. Such strategy is part of his weekly game plan. A year ago, Carthage converted on six straight fourth downs against Nixa.

Ozark coach Jeremy Cordell had already been made aware of Guidie’s tendency to have Carthage go for a first down on fourth down.

“We weren't (surprised), not at all,” Cordell said. "I love aggressive style. I'm the same way, I believe in aggressive football.”

Carthage’s two scoring drives in the second half consisted of nine plays over 77 yards and 17 plays over 89 yards. The latter drive took nearly 10 minutes off the clock.

After a dramatic, competitive first half, the contest had an anticlimactic finish. at least from an Ozark perspective.

“We've got to find a way to make a stop when it's third or fourth down,” Cordell said. “We’ve got to find a way to win those downs.”

“We've got to execute better on third and fourth down, plain and simple,” Ozark linebacker Frankie Munoz said. “They out-executed us 100 percent.”

With Carthage leading 27-20 midway through the fourth quarter, the visitors converted on fourth-and-two from the Ozark 21. The Carthage ball-carrier appeared to be stopped just inside the 20 and had his back to the 19 while holding the ball at his mid-section. 

Gudie all but conceded to the chain gang that he felt Carthage came up short on the play. But officials spotted the ball at the 19, giving Carthage a first down by the tip of the pigskin.

Carthage made it a two-score game a couple mnutes later. 

“We wanted to get back out there and help the defense,” wide receiver Sam Clark said. “But it's a game of inches.”

“We play the game by the ref's rules” Munoz said. “If they mark it there, that's where we're going to play.”

Williams makes early return

Williams played for the first time since suffering an avulsion fracture of his left ankle in Week Two versus Republic. 

“I had a ligament pull off a piece of bone from my tibula,” Williams said. “The piece of the bone floating around, that could have shattered the rest of my tibia. Being in (an immobilizer) boot made me feel weak. It brought my morale down. But I tried my best to step up for my teammates.

“I was worried I'd be done (for the season),” he added. “But I did everything I could. I'm back two weeks early.”

Williams’ conditioning will be a work in progress.

“I was a little gassed,” he said. “I put in the work to be out there. But I'm not in the shape I was. (Before the injury), I was probably in the best shape of my life. I'm trying to work my way back.”

Cordell was happy to welcome Williams back.

“He played with passion tonight and a good motor,” Cordell said.

Bowers ends first half with memorable TD

Carthage’s dominance of time of possession factored in Bowers not receiving a single carry in the second half. His only touch came on a screen pass. No one could have seen that coming after the way he closed out the first half.

On the final play of the first half, Bowers created a lasting Homecoming highlight by running 54 yards for a touchdown. On the play, he burst through a massive hole up the middle courtesy of Ozark’s offensive line. As he crossed into the red zone, a Carthage cornerback appeared to tackle Bowers. But Bowers landed on the defender, lifted himself up and dashed into the end zone.

The touchdown made it a 20-20 ball game at halftime.

Credit Bowers for the heads-up play and the officials for realizing the only part of his body that touched the turf was his left hand.

“All grit. I appreciate his effort,” Cordell said.

“They spread the box because they thought it was going to be a pass,” Bowers said. “I made a move to get around one defender and that slowed me down so the corner could catch me. He tried to tackle me, but I slid on top of him. No whistles blew, so I kept running. I knew I didn't touch the ground.

“It's about setting the tone, nothing is going to stop me,” he added.

Bowers and the cornerback talked about the play after the game.

“He showed me his side, he's all turf-burn on his hip,” Bowers said. “He was pretty upset about it.”

Bowers enjoyed a productive first half, after missing last week’s game at Webb City due to a meniscus injury.

“I'm not going to miss a week and be a different running back,’ he said. “I’m the same guy, if not better.”

Ozark's two possessions in the second half ended on a lost fumble and a turnover on downs.

Clark continues stellar play

Clark accounted for Ozark’s first two scores by hauling in touchdown passes from Peyton Russell. Their second scoring strike covered 43 yards, with Russell hitting Clark 25-30 yards downfield with a defender draped over him.

“I thought (the Carthage defender) was going to tip the ball, but he ended up not and I stuck my hands out and it fell right in my hands,” Clark said. “It was a beautiful pass.”

Clark’s move from cornerback to wide receiver for his junior season has been one of the better success stories for Ozark.

“This is my first time (on offense) since sixth grade, before I transitioned over to defense,” Clark said. “I still have my packages that I go in for on defense. But I was needed on offense, so I'm on offense.”

He’s been pleasantly surprised how well he’s done.

“I can actually catch the ball, I didn’t realize I can catch the ball as well as I can,” Clark said. “My routes are going to get better, It's a process. I'm getting there.

“Sam had some nice physical runs after the catch,” Cordell said. “I’m proud of him for that.”

Carthage 34, Ozark 20

Carthage 0  20  0  14  -  34

Ozark       0  20  0   0   -  20


C — Brady Carlton 7 run (Aaron Diaz kick)

O — Sam Clark 13 pass from Peyton Russell (Clark kick)

C — Langston Morgan 36 pass from Carlton (kick no good)

O — Clark 43 pass from Russell (kick no good)

C — Landyn Collins 1 run (Diaz kick)

O — jack Bowers 54 run (Clark kick)

C — Collins 22 run (Diaz kick)

C — Carlton 2 run (Diaz kick)