In a three-minute span, McDonald County turned a 14-point deficit against Republic into a 19-14 lead. But the Tigers recovered, scoring the game’s final two touchdowns to beat the Mustangs 27-19 in the district quarterfinals Thursday at Republic.
Early on, it looked like the Tigers would run away with it. They led 14-0 after one quarter. Their first score came on a 38-yard pass from Zach Hall to Garrett Metscher with 2:55 left. The defense forced McDonald County to punt, then James Desjardins went 50 yards around the left end to make it 14-0.
Republic had a chance to strike again after blocking a Mustangs punt and getting the ball on the McDonald County 25 early in the 2nd quarter. But they failed to convert, and a few minutes later, things went horribly wrong for the Tigers.
McDonald County made a defensive stop with a little over a minute left in the half, then took advantage of a short field to march the ball into the end zone, cutting the lead to 14-7 just before halftime.
In the 3rd quarter, Republic fumbled the ball on the first play from scrimmage. McDonald County scooped it up and ran it 39 yards to the end zone, then completed the 2-point conversion to tie the game at 14.
On the ensuing kickoff, Republic fumbled for the second play in a row. McDonald County jumped on it, and eventually punched the ball into the end zone again to take a 19-14 lead with nine minutes left in the 3rd quarter.
Republic fumbled twice more — losing one of them — before the defense got a stop and the Tiger offense took advantage. Republic went to the air again, and scored on a 45-yard touchdown pass to Beau Allen, who took the ball and made a couple of nifty moves to get into the end zone. The two-point conversion was no good, and it was 20-19.
McDonald County threatened again, driving into Republic territory, but Blake Fanning broke through the line to throw the Mustangs for a loss a key play, and McDonald County turned it over on downs with 3:00 left.
Republic kept the ball on the ground to run the clock, and ended up scoring again. Kerik Crouse broke free for a 37-yard touchdown run with 1:16 left to make it 27-19.
The Mustangs drove inside the Republic 30 on their final drive, but couldn’t score before time ran out.
Republic had 327 yards of total offense for the game, almost evenly split between rushing and passing. Zach Hall was 10-of-17 passing for 164 yards. He threw two touchdowns and one interception.
Garrett Metscher went over 100 yards receiving for the second time in three weeks. He caught four passes for 107 yards and a touchdown. Beau Allen had three catches for 35 yards.
Kerik Crouse led the Tigers in rushing with 87 yards on 17 carries. James Desjardins, returning from an injury that sidelined him for several games, gained 63 yards on 13 carries. He scored one touchdown.
The Mustangs racked up 397 yards of total offense on the Tiger defense.
McDonald County’s season ends with a 3-7 record. Republic improves to 5-5 and advances to the district semifinals at Webb City next Wednesday. The Cardinals are undefeated at 10-0 after beating West Plains Thursday.