Riley Childs smiled, raised his eyebrows and lifted his head a bit when it was suggested that an opposing defense should pack eight or more men in the box when he transforms from fullback to quarterback.
“I may surprise some people,” Childs said.
Childs didn’t pass the ball, but surprised some people and did about everything else while reaching the end zone three times in Nixa’s 40-12 Class 5 District 6 semifinal triumph over Ozark on Friday.
The game went from being competitive to a runaway in a matter of five minutes during the third quarter. The Eagles stretched a 13-6 halftime lead to a 33-6 advantage while introducing Childs as a quarterback in their ’42’ offensive formation that was also highlighted by two tight ends.
After Nixa (5-5) ran a couple offensive plays to start the second half, coach Rich Rehagen summoned Childs to take over behind center. Joining him in the backfield were running backs Alex Wentz and Ramone Green and fullback Michael Turner.
The Eagles proceeded to move the ball and finish drives. Green had a 20-yard touchdown run and Childs added a five-yard touchdown run during the two possessions in which Nixa went with its ’42’ look.
“We’ve been practicing it during the week, so I was hoping at some point we would run it,” Childs said. “The next thing you know, the coaches said ’42.’ I was happy. I was excited. I wanted to show what I can do.
"I think it makes the defense nervous. They have to think and move around.”
“It’s not really a ‘Wildcat,’ it’s more just of Riley playing a little quarterback and it’s not unbalanced like a ‘Wildcat,” Rehagen said. “It’s something we’ve been working on. It really worked tonight. That got us going. It was about getting three ball-carriers in the backfield. It (gave) us runner, runner, runner to try to get our weapons out there in spots to make plays. We tried to make them defend two and three guys on each snap.”
“Having a second QB gives you a good ‘refresh’ and momentum,” lineman Sam Davi added.
“It was a big spark,” Green said. “Having Riley back there, he’s a very physical runner. That’s a lot on the defense, having runners who can push it outside and a quarterback who can run it inside. It worked great. We were able to move the ball.”
Green enjoyed a 118-yard rushing night, after having just three carries for 11 yards in Nixa’s 20-14 regular-season loss to Ozark in September. On his 20-yard touchdown run, he showed exceptional balance and rode the back of a Nixa defender for the final five yards as he lunged for the end zone.
“The corner wasn’t committing to a side. I kept stringing it out and he wasn’t moving, so I bounced outside and went full speed,” Green said. “The safety came up and hit my legs. But I was able to keep my balance and score.
“Going in to tonight, I felt better knowing I could be more of a factor this game and be effective.”
Nixa went back to starting QB Reid Potts for its third scoring drive of the third quarter. Childs caught a screen pass from Potts and dashed 38 yards for another touchdown.
It was a complete role-reversal night, as the Eagles repeatedly won the battles along the line of scrimmage. Ozark clearly was the winner in the trenches in the teams’ ‘Backyard Brawl’ matchup in Week Four.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better time to get redemption,” Davi said. “We weren’t satisfied with how the first game with Ozark went. All of us could have done better. I saw familiar faces tonight. But it was easier to go against them the second time because they are a little unique in how they do things offensively and defensively. Having a rematch, it was good to have that familiar sense. Their defense is very spontaneous. They like to show a lot of blitzes.”
“I was seeing people moving people out of the way and seeing some big gaps,” Childs said. “I was seeing the safety most of the time, which was really nice. I’m very happy for the offensive linemen. They’ve been working their butts off and the results speak for themselves.”
“Offensively, we had trouble with the nose guard,” Rehagen aded. “But for the most part we were getting them blocked much better than the last time.”
Davi was also part of Nixa’s turnaround night along the defensive line. Ozark (4-6) struggled to gain even half of the 330 yards the Tigers ran for in the ‘Backyard Brawl.’
The Eagles didn’t downplay the revenge factor.
“We were being cocky the first time we played them because Willard had just beat them and we had beaten Willard,” Davi sad. “We went in thinking they would lay down and they hit us right in the mouth. This time, I think they were amped up about their win against us and we had the energy that sent us over because we wanted redemption.”
“We were prepared and wanted to get back at them,” defensive end DeSean Downs said. “Revenge was pretty big. I don’t know a single person who didn’t want to get back at them because we didn’t play well at all the first time. Our energy was up. I’m definitely glad we got to show them what we can do.”
“The defensive line played really well,” Rehagen added. "They definitely wanted to play them again. You could tell it the day after we played them in Week Four. They got their chance.”
Nixa moves on meet Carthage (8-2) at Carthage for the District championship next week.
Ozark’s Chance Strickler and Skout Lave connected for a 26-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the second quarter. But otherwise the Tigers failed to move the ball.
“They wanted it a lot more this game than they did the last time,” Strickler said of Nixa. "They played their best. We didn’t match their energy.”
"We were overconfident this time since we had already beat them," fullback Max Schilling said. "We thought we could do it again. Maybe we might have looked past them. They came ready to play. They were a different team than the first time we played them.”
Seemingly the only constant in the teams’ two meetings was Ozark was minus standout wide receiver Jake Skaggs. He sat out their regular-season contest due to a concussion and was sidelined Friday after suffering a knee injury Wednesday.
“We tried to adjust the gameplan, adapt and fix the hole left by him being gone,” Strickler said. “It’s different without him. He brings a lot of energy. He gets things going whenever we need help.”
“It was tough without him," Schilling agreed. "Knowing Jake, he would have made some kind of difference in this game.”
Nixa 40, Ozark 12
Nixa 7 6 20 7 - 40
Ozark 0 6 0 6 - 12
N - Cochran 6 pass form Potts (Anello kick)
O - Lave 26 pass from Strickler (pass field)
N - Childs 1 run (kick blocked)
N - Green 20 run (Anello kick)
N - Childs 5 run (Anello kick)
N - Childs 38 pass from Potts (kick no good)
N - Wentz 11 run (Anello kick)
O - Pritchard 3 run (kick no good)