Growing up, Reid Potts looked up to his older cousin, former Nixa all-state defensive back Tanner Kroutil, enough that he wears the same jersey number 7 that Kroutil donned from 2007-2010.
Potts can remember listening attentively as Kroutil talked of playing in the Backyard Brawl against Ozark. Kroutil helped the Eagles beat the Tigers 31-0 in 2010, after they had lost three straight in the series.
“I always heard from him about the game being super competitive,” Potts said. “I’m excited for that kind of competition.”
Potts will have his first start in the Backyard Brawl on Friday as Nixa’s quarterback. He’s fresh from leading the Eagles to their first win on the season, a 10-7 triumph over Willard last week.
Potts and his Nixa teammates displayed exceptional resilience, upsetting the Tigers after starting the season with losses to Carthage and Republic.
“We’re very determined,” Potts said. “We’ve been trying to get better each week, with better plays and better execution. I expect that to happen every week.”
Potts’ determination has been evidenced in his ability to bounce back after an interception.
“I think I’m pretty good about forgetting about (a pick) immediately and focusing on the next play,” he said. “You can catch it on film later and get better from it. I try to keep myself up. After (two interceptions at Republic in Week Two), I went to the sideline and the guys were patting me on the back and saying ‘Next play.’”
Potts has proven himself as an elusive threat who is not afraid to throw the ball on the run.
“Back in junior high, I was a receiver. So, I’ve always been a little fast,” he said. “I like to use my feet to extend plays. It helps to make big plays by being a dual threat quarterback.”
Potts has been chosen as a co-captain by his teammates, a rarity for a junior.
“I’m not a senior, but have to be a leader,” he said. “I think I handle it pretty well. But it gets to me every once in a while. It’s a good nervousness.”
Looking across the line of scrimmage Friday, Potts will see many familiar faces, but no friends.
“I like being able to talk to them before and after games,” Potts said. “I’m friends with a lot of them, but like all competitors I’m not friends with anybody inside the lines.”
Nixa won the Backyard Brawl 42-14 last year, but trails Ozark 20-11 in the all-time series.
“The game means a lot,” Eagles running back Alex Wentz said. “Beating the Tigers in the Backyard Brawl means everything.”