Neosho looks to spoil Branson's homecoming, earn first win

Sep. 29—The Neosho High School football team may be 0-5 but they have competed in multiple games and had opportunities to win. The Wildcats fell to Willard and Carl Junction by just one score and Carthage by two scores.

Tonight they will head to Branson (2-3) in an attempt to spoil the Pirates' homecoming.

"Any time you get to go on the road and play at somebody's homecoming there's a little extra motivation there," Neosho head coach Brandon Taute said.

Taute has made sure to emphasize to his team that the focus this week must be to block out the distractions that come with a homecoming game. This will also be the Wildcats' longest road trip of the year. Taute thinks the players can use this to stay focused and locked in with one another before the game.

Branson's head coach Aaron Hafner knows this won't be a walk in the park for his group. He recognized the talent Neosho provides on offense behind quarterback Quenton Hughes.

"Neosho is a really good 0-5 team," Hafner said. "They've been competitive. To me, they're a team that's really dangerous because their kids play really hard. ... Their quarterback is one of the best in our conference, if not the very best."

Hafner also noted that Hughes does a good job of helping the offense understand where to be at all times and makes everyone better around him.

Branson's two wins this year have come against Carl Junction and Carthage. In the Pirates' three losses, they were held to 14, 6 and 3 points. It may be important to hold the offense to two scores in this contest.

"Branson's a really good football team," Taute said. "They're a physical team. They're good up front on both sides of the ball."

The implications in this one for the Pirates are pretty big as well.

"It's a big week for us," Hafner said. "It's obviously homecoming. You always want to win your homecoming game. But the bigger picture is getting back to .500."

Outside of blocking out the extra noise from homecoming night, Neosho has also been preaching to find a way to close out games. The Wildcats have held leads going into the second half this year but haven't been able to finish.

"That's kind of been our focus this week in practice," Taute said. "Coming out and playing better in the second half. I feel like we've played really well in the first half of most of our games. A lot of times in the second half, when we get to that fourth quarter, we haven't been able to finish games."

Neosho has simulated some of those second-half situations in practice this week in order to try and ready itself for an opportunity to close one out.