REPUBLIC — With his parents citing the risk of an injury, Jordan Cribbs couldn’t get the OK from them as a youngster to play football. For a fantastic moment Friday, he could somewhat relate to their fears.
Following Cribbs’ game-winning 21-yard field goal as time expired in Nixa’s 31-28 triumph at Republic, he was worried about his well-being as teammates rushed toward him.
“I was scared I was going to get trampled,” Cribbs said with a smile. “It was amazing. I've never felt a rush like that.”
This was only Cribbs’ fourth Friday night lights experience. A midfielder/forward as a former soccer player, he didn’t join the Eagles’ football team until Week Five at Joplin. But the pigskin isn’t exactly foreign to him.
Cribbs is an ardent Green Bays Packers fan and, given his soccer background, naturally has paid close attention to place-kickers around the NFL.
“It’s been a little bit of a rough season,” Cribbs said of the Packers’ 2-3 start. “I liked (former Green Bay kicker) Mason Crosby a lot and I'm not a Chiefs fan, but (Harrison) Butker is a good kicker to look up to, too.”
“I didn't know he knew any football,” Nixa coach John Perry said when told of Cribbs’ passion for the Packers.
The quick-witted Perry followed up by saying, “He knew enough to kick it through the uprights.”
Perry called a timeout with :01 remaining and kept Cribbs by his side before sending him out to the field. Perry did his best to keep Cribbs calm.
“We have a routine we try to go through, ‘Take a deep breath, in through your nose and out through your mouth, relax and think less is more,’” Perry said. “He was jacked up. If you have too much energy, that's probably not a good thing. He wants to over-kick, which makes him pull the ball. So, ‘Less is more, follow through and keep your head down.’”
Cribbs stayed as composed as he could.
“Not a ton,” he said about feeling pressure. “I say I didn't feel the pressure, but at first I did. I knew this was a big game. I was there when we lost (36-35 to Republic in overtime) last year. It was sad and terrible as a fan, so I could only imagine what it was like as a player.
“My teammates helped calm me down. I was focused,” he added.
Cribbs’ game-winner will go down as the biggest special-teams play in Nixa annals since Alex Allen blocked a Branson field goal attempt in the final seconds to preserve an Eagles victory in 2017.
“This is crazy. It's literally a dream,” Cribbs said. “You write it up and hope it comes true. It's wild.”
“He'll remember tonight for the rest of his life,” Perry said.
Cribbs started the night as a backup to Braden Kahmke. Combined, Cribbs and Kahmke were 25-of-33 on their PAT attempts through seven games.
“Jordan missed a couple (kicks) yesterday in practice, so we went with Braden,” Perry said. “But Braden missed the first PAT tonight, so we said, 'All right Jordan, you kick the next one.’ He made the rest of them. The field goal was about a PAT, but obviously a lot more was on the line.”
Cribbs falls in line with 2023 Nixa grad Kaleb James as a soccer player who was recruited to kick for Nixa’s football team. James became an All-COC kicker and punter for the Eagles.
“He tried to get me to come out (for football) last year. But it was never really in the talks until this year,” Cribbs said. “He loved kicking, so I thought, 'Why not try it?' We were having struggles (kicking). I decided to come out and help. I’m glad I did. It’s been a lot of fun and I love to support Nixa.”
Eagles claim outright COC championship
Nixa (8-0) wrapped up its first outright COC championship since Webb City and Carthage joined the league in 2008. Also, this marks the first season Webb City, Carthage or Joplin haven’t owned at least a share of the COC title during that 16-season stretch.
Nixa can complete its first undefeated regular season in 20 years with a Backyard Brawl win next week versus Ozark.
The Eagles upped their winning streak in regular-season road games to 12, but won’t have to play on the road through Districts if they beat Ozark.
Republic (6-2) fell into a second-place tie with Webb City (6-2).
The Eagles gave the Tigers all due respect. Neither team led by more than a touchdown. Both sides were effective on offense, but the defenses were hard-hitting.
“That was too close to my liking. My heart was pounding,” safety Spencer Ward said “But we got the W, that's all that matters. They might not be the biggest team, but they're aggressive.”
“We expected it would be a dogfight,” cornerback Parker Mann said. “I assumed it would be, especially after the game we had with them last year.”
“Republic-Nixa is no joke, it’s the real deal,” running back Malachi Rider said. “They were hitting hard. It was tough running the ball. I'm going to feel it tomorrow. I'm pretty banged up. I hate getting hit. But I do like physical games. It gets me amped up.”
Rider had a 19-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, a three-yard touchdown run in the final minute of the second quarter and a two-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter.
He hiked his touchdowns total on the season to 18.
Republic burns timeouts early and often
Republic lost, despite scoring on its final two possessions. The Tigers’ ball-control offense actually proved to be a little too methodical and their misuse of their timeouts was oh-so costly.
Republic twice converted on fourth down during a 67-yard drive to set up quarterback Wyatt Woods’ one-yard touchdown run with 5:14 to play in the third quarter. That made it 21-21.
The Tigers took seven minutes off the clock at the start of the fourth quarter. On fourth-and-five from the Nixa seven-yard line, a double-reverse saw tight end James Rexroat throw a seven-yard touchdown pass to Woods. That tied things up at 28 with 5:54 to play.
Republic went through two timeouts on the drive. The Tigers all but wasted one timeout on first-and-10 from the Eagles’ 12-yard line. Their second timeout preceded the double-reverse pass.
Republic called its final timeout with 2:00 remaining while on defense and only :05 left on the play clock.
Nixa offense delivers in the clutch
Nixa’s winning drive over the final 5:54 began with a 27-yard run by Ward out of the 'Wildcat' to the Republic 38.
With the Eagles facing a fourth-and-eight from the Tigers’ 24 and 2:00 left, quarterback Nate Uber and wide receiver Rylan Michel hooked up for a 17-yard pass. It was as important as any play all night.
With Republic not able to stop the clock, Nixa ran three times to set up Cribbs’ kick.
“We had (Michel) at running back, had him motion down to get him on a linebacker and he did an out-route,” Uber said. “The two outside receivers ran to the middle of the field to (lure) the safety and Rylan was one-on-one (with the linebacker) — 100 percent that's where I was going with it. I've got as much trust as I can possibly have in him.”
“I was trying to stay calm,” Michel said of his response to the play-call. “I’ve been there and done that. I tried to have that mentality, so I could do what I do.”
“The kick doesn't happen if, on the 4th-and-9 play, we don't make the play-call (offensive coordinator Dustin Baldwin) made and we don't pass-protect,” Perry said. “Nate was as cool as a cucumber and threw a missile to Rylan, who ran a perfect route designed by coach Baldwin earlier this week for exactly that kind of situation.”
Baldwin was the head coach at Republic from 2017-2020.
As has been the case this entire season, Uber was not sacked.
“They're phenomenal,” Uber said of Nixa’s difference-making offensive linemen. “We had great protection. It's nice to know you have time and don't have to hurry. You can make a throw just like normal.”
“Our line did an amazing job,” Michel said. “They showed what they are all about.”
Nixa 31, Republic 28
Nixa 14 7 0 10 - 31
Republic 7 7 7 7 - 28
N - Malachi Rider 19 run (kick no good)
R - James Rexroat 52 pass from Wyatt Woods (Mason Cole kick)
N - Dylan Rebura 5 run (two-point conversion good)
R - Woods 1 run (Cole kick)
N - Rider 3 run (Cribbs kick)
R - Woods 1 run (Cole kick)
N - Rider 2 run (Cribbs kick)
R - Woods 7 pass from Rexroat (Cole kick)
N - Cribbs 21 field goal