Nate Nixon was able to make a favorable impression during Nixa’s semifinal run in the Parkview 7-on-7 Tournament on Thursday, despite playing with a sore hip flexor.
Nixon’s speed and quickness stood out on pass routes, leading to optimism what he can do when fully healthy.
Less than two weeks ago, he felt a sharp pain in his hip and thigh areas.
“I was getting into my car when I opened the door and moved my leg weirdly and it felt messed up,” Nixon said. “I think I rotated my hip wrong. I moved it back too fast. It’s gotten a lot better. It’s healing up all right. There’s a little bit of pain now. But I’ve got it wrapped, so it feels good. I don’t want to come out. I want to keep playing.”
At a mere 5-foot-8 and 135 pounds, Nixon needs to gain separation from opposing defensive backs to haul in passes. To that end, he prides himself on running precise pass routes. Even at less than 100 percent, he consistently worked himself free during the tourney to emerge as one of quarterback Reid Potts’ favorite targets.
“Route running is usually one of my stronger suits,” said Nixon, who made his varsity debut last year by catching two passes for eight yards. “I’ve been set back a little bit. But we’re doing all right with the routes. I’ve got to get those quick routes in and quick passes and run it in. I’m not much of a deep threat, more of slot, get it and go.
“It’s going good. But I’ve got to keep working to get better.”
Nixa was 4-1 during pool play. The Eagles opened bracket play with a first-round bye and then breezed to a quarterfinal victory over Kickapoo. Potts opened the win over the Chiefs by completing his first six passes.
Nixa never got going on either side of the ball in falling to Harrison, Arkansas, in the semifinal round. Potts was picked off twice. The Goblins went on to lose to Carthage in the championship game.
Sam Cochran also established himself as one of NIxa’s top receiving candidates. He started at wideout during the second half of last season and had one reception for three yards.
As a senior this season, he’s ready to assume a much bigger role.
“First off, it’s nice to be a senior, to be the top dog,” Cochran said. “It feels good to be playing on a larger level. I have that desire to compete, have fun and step up and be a leader and do what seniors do.
“It’s early in the season and we’re still learning,” he added. “But I feel I’ve learned a lot and earned a lot, as well.”
Cochran, at 6-foot-0, has shown the ability to bring down passes amidst a battle for the ball with a defender or defenders.
“Adjusting to the ball, jumping up and getting it at the top point is huge,” he said. “You’ve got to play above (the defender). As coach (Richard Rehagen) says all the time, it’s a battle of wills. You’ve just got to be better.”
Cochran leaped high above Kickapoo defenders for a touchdown catch during a 7-on-7 session earlier in the week in what rates as one of Nixa’s top highlights thus far.
“I had to fight for it,” he said. “I jumped up and snagged it. It was a good moment.”
Nixon and Cochran both enjoy catching passes from Potts, who is taking over as Nixa’s starting signal-caller. Potts was 23-for-36 for 324 yards with four TDs and three interceptions a year ago.
“He’s quick to see who is open, even when the routes aren’t going where they are supposed to go,” Cochran said. “He trusts us to adjust to the ball. It’s nice to have that trust.”
“It’s great working with Reid and he’s got a good arm,” Nixon said. “I really like him as my quarterback. We have a great connection. I can always rely on him. He knows exactly what I’m doing and how I do it.”