Friday night lights returned, and there was no shortage of games to keep up with in the area. Branson, Hollister, Reeds Spring and Forsyth all opened their football seasons in front of a home crowd.
The Reeds Spring Wolves and Forsyth Panthers each picked up a win to start their seasons out on a high note. The Branson Pirates and Hollister Tigers fell short.
At Reeds Spring, head coach Andy McFarland led his team to a 41-7 win against East Newton. The win is his first at Reeds Spring since taking over as head coach this season.
“Getting a win to open the season is always a good thing,” McFarland said. “It definitely meant more to me that it’s my first opportunity to play there at Reeds.”
McFarland said he wasn’t sure what to expect out of the crowd, as Reeds Spring made a decision to limit their crowd size.
“It was still an awesome atmosphere,” McFarland said. “I’m excited to coach many more games there.”
McFarland said he wasn’t entirely sure what to expect out of his team, as they didn’t get the opportunity to play against other teams in the off-season like they typically would. He said the previous weekend’s jamboree against Ozark gave him a bit more confidence heading into Friday’s game.
He believes his team really stepped up to the challenge of a bigger school and played really hard.
“I was really proud of our defense – how well we got lined up to formations and identified the keys that we have been looking for through the game plan that week,” McFarland said.
He said on Saturday, they go through and give their offense grades on two separate things – assignment and effort.
“I was really pleased with both of those,” McFarland said. “Our effort was really good … and making the change to a new offense, you always worry about guys making mistakes with their responsibilities and what they’re supposed to be doing. That wasn’t a problem this week.”
Reeds Spring is away next Friday. The team is traveling to play Lamar. Lamar is starting out the season with a new head coach as well, and it’s someone McFarland is familiar with.
McFarland met Lamar’s new head coach Jared Beshore a couple years ago, when Beshore was an assistant at Branson.
“I was really impressed with Jared’s understanding of the game, so I know he’s going to do a really good job.”
McFarland has seen the film of Lamar’s game against Springfield Catholic from Friday, where Lamar defeated Springfield Catholic 56-12.
“They’re big and they’re fast,” McFarland said. “It’s going to be a great big challenge for us to go over there.”
He noted how much success Lamar has had in the past, and how it’ll be their first game on a new turf field.
“It’s going to be kind of a hostile environment for us,” McFarland said. “I’m excited for the opportunity, and I’m excited for the challenge. I know our boys feel the same about it, I don’t think we’re going to shy away from playing a team with that kind of history.”
Although Hollister fell 20-13 to Monett Friday, head coach Rich Adkins said his team played a really good game.
Adkins noted Monett has been a solid team the last few years, and like Hollister, they had returned a lot of athletes from the previous season.
“It was a big challenge for us,” Adkins said. “We feel like we met that challenge really well and had plenty of opportunities to win the game.”
Adkins said he was really pleased with their offensive line Friday night, as well as their defensive line.
“Our guys upfront really met the match,” Adkins said. “Monett was really big upfront, and that’s a strength of their team. That’s really what kind of had us nervous and worried going into the game, but our guys really met their match and did a very, very nice job.”
Hollister is also away next weekend, where they will travel to play against Nevada.
Adkins said the team is preparing as they do every week, but starting the season out 0-1 isn’t the most ideal situation.
“You really want to get that first win under your belt to make your season start feeling a little bit better and get the distaste out of your mouth,” Adkins said. “We’re going to prepare hard for Nevada, it’s a long trip for us.”
Nevada started their season out with a 38-26 win against Logan-Rogersville Friday, after losing their last 16 games.
“We know they’re going to be feeling really confident and good about themselves,” Adkins said. “It’s going to be a really tough challenge for us, but we’re looking forward to it.”
Forsyth is another team starting their season out with a new head coach. Head coach Kris Conley was able to lead the Forsyth Panthers to a 67-12 win against Greenfield Friday night.
The Panthers will travel to play against Buffalo Friday. Buffalo started their season out with a win as well, defeating Ava 47-42.
“We have got to protect the football and just clean up,” Hays said.
The home opener wasn’t all that bad though, Hays said his team finished with a lot of heart.
“I was proud that we were able to finish with a score,” Hays said. “A lot of stuff didn’t go our way all night – really sloppy football and a lot of penalties and turnovers – so, for us to put a drive together and score on the fourth down at the end … I thought that had a lot of heart with Brady Blackwell and that catch he made at the end to score. That was a bright spot”
Branson will play at Ozark next Friday night. The Pirates have beat Ozark twice since Hays took over as head coach, and the one loss was by just a point. Ozark lost their season opener to Carthage 35-14.