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Trio of first-half turnovers and flawless CJ offense make for 'a tough one for the Tigers'


While looking ahead to its upcoming Week Two matchup at Republic, Ozark was forced Friday to think back to its matchup with Republic last season.

Ozark’s season-opening 42-21 loss to Carl Junction bore a striking resemblance to its 48-28 setback against Republic a year ago.

Ozark’s offense turned the ball over four times in the first half while falling behind 28-0 to Republic last September. On Friday, the Tigers turned the ball over three times on fumbles in the first half en route to falling behind 28-7.

“We felt good offensively and were extremely confident we'd be able to put up points. But we continually stubbed our toes,” coach Chad Depee said. “We had miscues that cost us. That's early-season football. You stress about it for weeks and weeks and put in all the practices to get to this point. Then when it comes live under the lights, there are no re-dos, every one of the snaps count. Your focus has to be spot-on.”

“A fumble stops the momentum right there,” running back Gage Depee said. "That’s something we've got to stop doing. We've got to fix.”

There was no common theme that led to the three fumbles. 

“We had a kid trip one time that goofed the play up, we had bad ball security on one and a CJ defensive lineman blew us up on another one,” Chad Depee said.

On an uphill climb basically the whole night, Ozark drew no closer than 14-7. Running back Ethan Sutherland took a pitch and broke loose for a 40-yard touchdown run in the first quarter for the Tigers.

Carl Junction’s offensive execution was impressive. The Bulldogs repeatedly ran behind the left side of their offensive line for big gains and in short-yardage scenarios.

“Their running game got going. When that is happening, I always give that as a testament that the O-line is doing a great job,” Chad Depee said.

“They're not huge guys. But they are quick and fast,” said Gage Depee, who doubled as a linebacker. “We had a hard time getting around them and getting through them.”

“By far, it wasn't our best performance,” linebacker Elijah Orris said. “We had missed tackles and turnovers. On both sides of the ball, we need to work harder and get better, that's all there is to it.”

Carl Junction put the turbo clock in play briefly in the second half by going up 42-7. The Bulldogs never turned the ball over to give Ozark hope for a quick comeback. 

“Hats off to coach Buck and their crew,” Chad Depee said, referring to Carl Junction coach Doug Buckmaster. “I thought they came out with a lot of energy and they continued to play with that energy in the second half. We could never get the momentum back. It was a tough one for the Tigers.”

Going into the game, one of the more compelling storylines for Ozark was how would the Tigers respond to having  multiple two-way players. With so many of them playing 40-plus minutes, they wore down as the game went along.

“Their kids were fresh and continued to come off the ball and execute and cause us fits,” Chad Depee said. “You never want to have a group of guys who have to play both ways all the time. It's a tough game. It hurt us tonight, especially late in the game. It's definitely a drawback and a chink in your armor. We have to battle and overcome that

“Our depth is a concern and we'll continue to work through that and try to create depth,” he added. “We're continually creating depth, that's why we practice. We're giving kids an opportunity to fill a role that we need. We've got some young kids who will step up.”

“We all love being out there,” Gage Depee said. “None of us want to come out. None of us are complaining. We were so excited when we learned we were going to be playing both ways. It's tough on us physically. But you've got to push through.”

Ozark put up two touchdowns in the final minutes on a 57-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brady Dodd to wide receiver Jace Whatley and a 32-yard touchdown run by backup quarterback Laine Emmerth.

Tigers running back Jack Bowers did not suit up due to a fractured wrist he suffered in a 7-on-7 tournament at Harding (Arkansas) earlier this summer. He received word this week he will underdo surgery next week.

"I'll either miss all of the season or most of the season," Bowers said. "Since I'm having surgery next week, I tried to get (doctors) to let me play this week. but they wouldn't (clear me)."

Carl Junction 42, Ozark 21

CJ - Moore 87 pass from Merrell (Perkins kick)

CJ - Starks 16 run (Perkins kick)

O - Sutherland 40 run (Clark kick)

CJ - Stokes 12 run (Perkins kick)

CJ - Merrell 2 run (Perkins kick)

CJ - Merrell 2 run (Perkins kick)

CJ - Stewart 4 run (Perkins kick)

O - Whatley 57 pass from Dodd (Clark kick)

O - Emmerth 32 run (Clark kick)