With a Nixa win never in doubt Friday, the Eagles' Peyton Covel was happy to see Joplin prevail in the other Class 6 District 5 semifinal and not simply because he was rooting against Kickapoo.
Covel’s confidence is on the rise after the defensive tackle shined in Nixa’s 50-0 victory versus Ozark.
He’s looking forward to the chance to gain a bit of redemption in Nixa's rematch against Joplin, this time with a District championship on the line.
"I didn't get too many reps at Joplin (in Week Five in mid-September),” Covel said. “There were still too many things that were wrong with my technique because of my (hip flexor) injury. That was probably my worst game because I was coming back from my injury. I'm ready to show them who I am this coming game.”
Covel is a 6-foot-1, 240-pound junior coming off his most impactful game of the season. He had several stops at the line of scrimmage against Ozark, while helping Nixa (10-0) post its second shutout of the year.
The Eagles blanked the Tigers for the first time since 2014.
"It’s nice to show the rest of the conference that we can put 50 on Ozark and hold onto a shutout against them," Covel said.
Covell is showing more of what he can do, after overcoming a hip flexor strain.
“I didn't tear anything, but pulled something,” Covell said. “It hurt to move and I couldn't hold my blocks or gaps. It didn't hurt walking. But as soon as I got pressure from a down-block it gave out on me from the pain and I would just fall. (Coaches) saw that and didn't want me to get further hurt because they wanted me for the bigger games against the more competitive teams.
“A lot of things were fixed throughout the season,” he added, while referring to his technique. “This week was the biggest week for me for fixing my feet and hands. I'm starting to make a comeback and be more violent. First play of the game tonight I pancaked the guard by running him over. It was explosive.”
Coach John Perry noted Covel and fellow junior defensive lineman Aiden Sigman have shared a similar fate. Sigman is bouncing back from a sprained knee that sidelined him for several weeks.
“They both have battled injuries, but both seem to be healthy at the right time. That works out good for us,” Perry said. “Peyton and Aiden inside on the defensive line have continued to get better. They started out needing to grow up some and they have. They're physical guys who can control the inside.”
Nixa didn’t allow Ozark (2-9) to put together a sustained drive or reach the red zone. The Eagles’ backups completed the shutout, after giving up a late score to the Tigers in the Backyard Brawl.
“We had them 51-7 two weeks ago,” Nixa linebacker Eli Frazier said. “50-0 was big for us. It made me happy.”
Eagles running backs Dylan Rebura and Malachi Rider each ran for two touchdowns on their way toward amassing the 36 yards rushing they both needed to reach the 1,000-yard milestone.
“The 1,000 yard-mark feels great,” Rebura said. “Obviously, me and Mal' have hit it hard this year. I'm proud of him and proud of myself. Our job is not finished.”
It's the first time Nixa has had two 1,000-yard rushers in recent history. Ditto for Perry during his 21-year career as a head coach.
"I've never had two 1,000-yard rushers. Now I might have back in the day when we were in the option, with a running back and a quarterback. But I've never had two 1,000-yard running backs," Perry said. "It's pretty unique, no doubt about it."
This is the first 1,000-yard season for Rebura at the varsity level, but not the first time he’s reached 1,000. He had 2,000-plus yards rushing as a freshman spread out over the freshman, jayvee and varsity levels.
Next season, he’s looking forward to challenging Ramone Green’s single-season school-record of 2,223 yards rushing.
“Next year, I'm going to run it up again,” Rebura said. “Perry has high expectations for me and I'm going to be ready to break that record.”
The Eagles scored three times in the air against Ozark. Quarterback Nate Uber teamed with tight end Clayton Pruitt and wide receivers Rylan Michel for touchdown passes, while quarterback Drew Blevins found wideout Baran Johnson for a scoring strike.
Johnson’s 48-yard touchdown catch is his second varsity catch and first touchdown.
“(Coaches) had told me I was going in and we were going to run that play and usually that play is designed for me,” Johnson said. “It was a beautiful pass. It didn't feel like it was going to come down. It was nerve wracking. Luckily, I caught it and got in the end zone. It’s nice to finally get a shot and to get a touchdown.”
Johnson’s touchdown was a popular play among his teammates.
“Everyone came up to me (after the play),” Johnson said. “It was nice to see the support of my teammates. I feel like I'm on top of the world now.”
Like Covel and Rebura, Johnson is a junior who figures to have more big plays in his future.
“This year was Baran's first time to come out for football and he's gotten better and better,” Perry said. “He’s got a lot of Rylan Michel characteristics. He's kind of small, but is extremely athletic and has got great hand-eye coordination. I’m proud we were able to get him a score because he had a fantastic year playing jayvee football. He's somebody who will be big-time for us next year.”
For the second game this season, Nixa place-kickers Jordan Cribbs and Braden Kahkme were perfect on PATs.
Nixa was one of six COC teams Friday to earn a berth in a District championship game.
Joplin (7-3) crushed Kickapoo 45-29, after leading 35-7 at halftime.
In Class 5, Webb City (8-2) whipped Belton 71-20, Carthage (7-4) doubled up Raytown South 56-28 and Republic (9-2) downed Willard 35-14.
In Class 4, Carl Junction (3-8) beat Harrisonville 17-7.
“It looks like a good night,” Perry said as he received scores in his office from assistant Phil Wickwar. “I'm proud of the ones who are winning. The more who win the better. It's a tough conference and we're glad we're in it.”
Nixa 50, Ozark 0
Ozark 0 0 0 0 - 0
Nixa 22 14 7 7 - 50
N - Clayton Pruitt 30 pass from Nate Uber (Spencer Ward run)
N - Malachi Rider 31 (Jordan Cribbs kick)
N - Rylanb Michel 22 pass from Uber (Cribbs kick)
N - Dylan Rebura 3 run (Cribbs kick)
N - Rider 15 run (Braden Kahmke kick)
N - Rebura 6 run (Kahmke kick)
N - Baran Johnson 48 pass from Drew Blevins (Kahmke kick)