Ozark football

Ozark's Ethan Pritchard tackles a Carthage ball-carrier in Week Nine.

Even though Ozark won this year’s ‘Backyard Brawl,’ the Tigers share the same sentiment as the Eagles that they are thankful the teams are meeting again.

Both Ozark (4-5) and Nixa (4-5) earned first-round byes for Class 5 District 6 and will square off again tonight at Ozark in a semifinal. The other semifinal will pit defending District champion Carthage (7-2) versus Branson (2-8).

No one is happier at Ozark for a second Nixa-Ozark game than Tigers wide receiver Jake Skaggs. He sat out Ozark’s 20-14 ‘Backyard Brawl’ Week Four win due to a concussion he suffered the previous week against Branson.

“I was pretty bummed when I was ruled out,” Skaggs said. “It all happens for a reason, though.”

Skaggs was hoping and praying the seeds would work out that Ozark and Nixa would be paired together. The Tigers have the home-field advantage based on their win over the Eagles.

“I want my shot at them, it should be fun,” Skaggs said. “We’ve tuned some things up and and are ready to give Nixa our best game we possibly can.”

There wasn’t a whole lot Ozark did wrong the first time around while dominating the line of scrimmage against Nixa. The Tigers totaled 330 yards on the ground on 64 rushes, or an average of 5.2 yards a run.

A blocked kick resulted in a 10-point swing as Nixa picked up the pigskin and ran it 84 yards for a touchdown. Thus, Ozark wasn’t able to put away Nixa until converting on a fourth-and-one and running for a first down with two-plus minutes remaining.

“We’d like to put some more points on them than last time,” Tigers fullback Max Schilling said. “The score wasn’t a real reflection of how the game went.”

Ozark’s offense is more balanced now than it was in the first half of the season. Quarterback Chance Strickler is coming off a three-touchdown passing night against Carthage two weeks ago.

Strickler has thrown for seven touchdowns on the season.

“Our passing game was a work in progress last year, it was on and off,” Skaggs said. “This year it’s on.”

Strickler had two scoring strikes against Nixa and he, too, is excited about a rematch.

“It’s always nice to play Nixa,” Strickler said. “We had a really good game against them and want to keep that momentum. It’s going to be a good game. We will have to stay focused and not let anything distract us.”

Indeed, as coach Chad Depee pointed out, any lapses Friday could mean the difference between another game or the end of the season.

“You win you keep going, if not you pack up,” Depee said. “The urgency has to be there.”

The winner will play for a District championship. Ozark hasn’t made it to a District final since 2017. For Nixa, it’s been since 2016. The most recent District championship for either side is Nixa’s Class 5 District 5 title in 2015. Ozark’s last championship season was its Class 5 District 5 title in 2012.

“Playing for the District championship would mean a lot,” Schilling said. “During our last District championship season, none of us were even in high school. But we’ve got to get this game first.”

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