Joplin readies for road tilt with Ozark

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Sep. 8—It's all about improvement for Joplin football.

Ranked No. 8 in Class 6, the Eagles took care of business with a lopsided 52-13 victory over Willard in Week 2. Joplin, which handled Branson 34-3 in Week 1, once again played well in all three phases of the game.

"I thought we continued to improve from Week 1, which is the constant goal," Joplin coach Curtis Jasper said. "Offense, outside of the first drive when we fumbled the ball again, was efficient and we executed well. Defensively we continued on that same path. I thought we had good special teams, and kickoff coverage was solid again. Kickoff returns were good. We had a good punt return, too.

"So all in all, I thought special teams were solid. Defense was lights out again and offense did well. That's what we want to do — play all three phases of the game well and get better from week to week."

This Friday night, Joplin (2-0) travels to take on Ozark (0-2) in a Central Ozark Conference tilt from Tiger Stadium.

Kickoff is on tap for 7 p.m.

The Tigers have suffered losses of 42-21 to Carl Junction and 51-14 to Republic to open the 2022 season. Senior quarterback Brady Dodd has completed 13 of 25 passes for 258 yards with two touchdowns.

Another senior, running back Jacob Kronebusch leads the team with 94 yards on the ground in 15 carries. Dodd's top target is junior Jace Whatley, who has five catches for 69 yards.

Ozark's averaging just 17 points per game as a team and allowing 46.5 ppg.

"We are back to a triple-option team," Jasper said of Ozark. "They are similar to Branson in Week 1 with the flexbone. Ozark has been 70% run the first two weeks. I know they are 0-2, but they start nine seniors on offense and eight on defense. One of their juniors is a two-way returning starter from last year, who's athletic. I think it's just a matter of them putting it together. I don't think they have played their best ball yet, which is scary going into this when you have a veteran group that feels like they can better.

"We are going to have to execute and understand what our responsibilities are defensively against their option, not let them throw play action passes over the top of us. We have to play good assignment football. Defensively, they like to bring people from different spots and they'll bring a lot of noise and blitzes. We'll need to have our eyes up and be able to execute our schemes."

Joplin got an improved performance from quarterback Hobbs Gooch last week. The junior completed 12 of 16 passes for 197 yards with 4 TDs and no interceptions.

In total, Gooch has a completion percentage of 77% (27 of 35) for nearly 500 yards through the air with eight TDs and three picks.

"I thought he learned from his mistakes as far as turning the ball over," Jasper said. "I thought he did a good job of putting it where only our (receivers) could get it and not having a chance of an interception. He showed a lot of growth from Week 1 to Week 2."

Quin Renfro had a breakthrough performance running the football. The junior piled up 170 yards on the ground with one score in 15 carries.

Renfro averaged 11.3 yards per carry against Willard's defense.

"He's fantastic," Jasper said. "He was patient to the cut and exploded through it. I thought our blocking both on the O-line and on the perimeter did a good job."

Defensively, Joplin linebacker and one of the team captains, Draven VanGilder, picked up 16 more tackles. He's got 32 stops through two games this season.