Wide receiver Evann Long and quarterback Reid Potts have shown the ability to read each others’ eyes while Long runs a “re-route.” The two also know what each other is thinking based on their constant communication along Nixa’s sideline during a game.
“Me and Reid talk after every possession to make sure we know where we’re at and where to throw the ball,” said Long, who has become a student of the game in his one and only season of high school football. “As I’ve gone on during the season, I’ve gotten better at reading defenses and knowing how they’re going to be playing. I get a feel for where they’re playing me and how they’re guarding me on runs and passes. Then, I talk to Reid and we try to attack their weaknesses.”
“Every position has things they can look for and he’s looking at how he’s being covered,” coach Rich Rehagen said. “He’s a competitor and he’s one who understands every little edge you can get is important. That’s what he’s trying to get.”
Entering NIxa’s home contest with Branson tonight, Long has emerged into one of the COC’s premier wideouts. He has 21 receptions for 403 yards, accounting for more than half of Potts’ 792 yards passing.
“He’s one of our good weapons,” Rehagen said. “I’m excited for him, with the year he is having and happy to have him.”
Long set a school record for single-game receiving yards with 169 last week versus Carl Junction.
Despite not having played since he was in the eighth grade, Long won’t say the season has exceeded his expectations.
“I set pretty high goals for myself,” he said. “I’m never really excited about how I’m doing. I'm always wanting to do more. I was hoping this would be a special year because Reid is a really good quarterback. I thought we could do something good this season."
Nixa (3-3) can go a long way toward earning a top-three seed and the first-round bye that goes with it for Class 5 District 6 by beating Branson (1-5). The Eagles have won two straight and feel they are reaching their potential, after a sluggish 1-3 start.
“We’ve been working hard in practices and then giving it our all for the two and half hours we’re out here,” Long said. “We’re focusing up. When we know our assignments, we can be dangerous and beat teams not a lot of people think we can.”
“We haven’t allowed many points this season and the offense is figuring it out,” defensive back Clayton Uber said. “We’re dangerous and getting momentum going."
Nixa players and coaches are hardly taking a win tonight for granted, knowing Branson features standout running back Jay Hill and the Pirates beat a Republic team in Week One that handled the Eagles in Week Two. Of course, comparing scores in the COC this season in particular has proven fruitless.
“This conference is crazy,” Long said. “Whoever comes to play on that night is going to win. You don’t want to compare old games.”
"It’s absolutely not the year for comparing scores,” Rehagen said. “Comparing scores doesn’t mean anything and it never has. Your have 16-, 17- and 18-year-old kids who see that this team got beat by a team we beat or vice-versa. Sometimes, you’ve got to convince them otherwise.
“The way our league has gone this year, I couldn’t predict anything," he added. "The top of it is pretty dang good and the rest of us are right there. If you’re not right and ready, you’re going to get beat in our league. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing the team that has won one game or the team has won them all.
"It’s a good football league and it proves itself week after week.”