Grief seemingly had a hold of Nixa for eight years in regard to the Eagles’ all-time series with Webb City and in particular a 27-24 overtime loss to the Cardinals in 2013.
Nixa fans have lamented for eight long years over the Eagles’ lost opportunity in that game. Instead of attempting a go-ahead field-goal near the end of regulation, Nixa ran on fourth-and-one from the one-yard line and quarterback Jacob Karlson was stopped inches short of the goal-line.
There was more crying at Eagles Stadium on Friday, but for an entirely different reason. Nixa ended its losing streak to Webb City at 20 games by downing the Cardinals 41-27.
Since the Cardinals joined the COC in 2007 and began playing Nixa on an annual basis, no Eagles team had beaten 15-time state champion Webb City. The outcome was the same as far back as 1988 and in the 1990s and early 2000s when the schools met a handful of times as non-conference foes. They met in the playoffs on three occasions and each time the Cardinals moved on.
Everything turned around Friday, leaving Nixa players and coaches trying their best to contain their emotions. Others let the tears of joy flow unabashedly.
“Yeah, I was crying,” offensive tackle Sam Brower said of his post-game celebration. “I was hugging everyone and congratulating everyone. It felt great. We’ve been working four years to do this. We finally got it done. I couldn’t be happier.”
Nixa coach John Perry kept a straight face while explaining why he was teary-eyed. He confessed that maybe he had a tear or two of joy.
“Like I told the kids, I have some sinus issues tonight,” Perry said. “It wasn’t really tears, it was sinuses. I will say that’s the first time I’ve had sinus issues in a long time. You can be so proud that it brings you to emotions.”
For any of their teammates that did cry, the Eagles were glad their win meant so much to them.
“If you’ve never beaten a team before, you’d be pretty happy wouldn’t you,” defensive end John Gholson said. “It’s insane, an awesome feeling.”
“There were a lot of people about to cry,” linebacker Jaden Aven said. “(Defensive back) Cody Breeden came to me and said he was trying to hold himself back from crying. In the locker room, we were all saying we love each other and we love what we do for each other — that’s how Nixa plays.”
“I wasn’t crying, but I was definitely emotional,” nose guard Avry Rutherford said. “Being able to celebrate with my brother (Evan) was one of the most prideful moments ever for me.”
As the final seconds of the game ticked away, Gholson sat on the Nixa bench and made sure to capture all he was seeing, hearing and feeling.
“I was trying to take it all in,” Gholson said. “Sometimes, after a win, you’re thinking, ‘Oh, whatever, we have to move on to the next team.’ But this one is very special. I’m glad to share this with my team.”