CARTHAGE, Mo. — This Friday night, two of Missouri’s best teams clash in a heavy weight bout.
Carthage is playing scene to one heck of a finale for a regular season we did not know if we would get as Class 6 No. 7 Nixa (7-1) visits Class 5 No. 1 Carthage (7-0).
It’s a pseudo Central Ozark Conference championship game, and both sides know it.
“This is a really big game and we’re excited,” Nixa football head coach John Perry said.
“I can tell our guys are a little more focused this week,” Carthage football head coach Jon Guidie said.
Their journey’s to this matchup, however, been very different.
“I have absolutely enjoyed it,” Perry said. “I think seeing the transition of these guys’ mindsets has been wonderful. We’ve enjoyed the move here.”
After three straight seasons without a winning record, the Eagles hired John Perry out of Mississippi.
Safe to say that paid off.
“The one thing we have done already is flip the expectations,” Perry said. “You know, I go to church the other day and we get beat by Webb. We’re 6-1 and the old guys in the church want to know what’s wrong. They’re like, ‘How did that happen?’ I thought we surely changed the expectations really fast, which is great. High expectations are great.”
On the other side, Carthage is the reigning state champion.
Now on the verge of a perfect regular season, they say that’s just the bar for this team.
“I mean, these guys have been there done that,” Guidie said. “This is another big game, but they’ve been in a ton of big games.”
For the Tigers, it’s their biggest test after the Webb City matchup was canceled.
“We need big games like this to get ourselves mentally ready and physically ready,” Carthage Senior OT Aiden Logan said. “They’re going to be the best team we go against up till now.”
For the Eagles, it’s a chance to prove they’re better than a 28-0 loss to Webb.
“We’re excited for a little bit of a do over,” Perry said. “When we played Webb, we went out there and did not play the best football we can play. We’ve told them from day one, our success is not going to be defined by a scoreboard. But that night we were not successful. We did not play the very best football we can play. We just want to go out there Friday and play the very best we can play.”
One thing both communities have in common, however, is the excitement.
“Oh man, it’s awesome to have such a big game this late in the year with so much riding on it,” Perry said. “That’s what we play football for. We’re blessed for the opportunity to still be playing. We would’ve never thought we’d be playing this late in the year anyway. To be playing as well as we are, as healthy as we are, it’s exciting.”