The Pirates led 3-0 after a 36-yard field goal from Christian Berumen, and the Pirates had held Nixa to minus-17 yards of offense on six plays – four of them going for negative yardage.
That was the extent of the positive feelings for Branson, which saw Nixa score the game’s final 41 points, sending the game into a running clock in the third quarter and celebrating Homecoming with a 41-3 victory.
“It felt like we had the momentum right off the bat,” Branson coach Anthony Hays said. “I thought, ‘Man, this is going to be a fun night,’ and I don’t know.
“Obviously we had a few turnovers, we had some holding calls, it just seemed like we would take a couple of steps forward, then would take three steps back. It was just one of those nights offensively.”
The loss was the sixth in a row for Branson following a Week 1 victory over Republic.
Branson finished with only 206 yards of total offense, with 139 coming on 21 rushes by senior running back Jay Hill. Of those, 45 came on his final carry, late in the third quarter.
Nixa, meanwhile, shrugged off the slow start to finish with 306 yards rushing.
Freshman Ramone Green ran for 128 yards on 21 bruising carries, with Alex Wentz adding 93 yards and a pair of scores, Riley Childs adding two short TD runs, and quarterback Reid Potts added a scoring run and a scoring pass.
The Eagles improved to 4-3 with their third consecutive victory, and made life rough on a Branson team that was playing without standout defenders Ethan Stout (broken hand) and Ty Werling (illness).
“I guess they made some adjustments or did something different after the first couple of drives, and moved the ball well,” Hays said. “Having Ty Werling out tonight was a big deal.”
Branson had some chances offensively before things got out of hand.
After Wentz scored on a 2-yard run to take a 7-3 lead, Branson quarterback Dalton Muenchau hit Hill on a 30-yard screen pass down to the Nixa 26-yard line, with a face mask penalty on the Eagles at the end of the play.
But the Pirates were flagged for holding, wiping out what would have been a first down inside the Eagles’ 15-yard line.
Branson’s next possession saw the Pirates move inside the Nixa 20-yard line on a nine-play drive, but a pass from Muenchau intended for Brady Blackwell was broken up in the end zone on a play that featured a lot of contact.
The Pirates turned the ball over on downs, and the first play of the ensuing Nixa possession was a 75-yard touchdown run by Wentz.
Branson punted on its next possession, with Nixa ending the half with an eight-play drive capped by a 1-yard run by Potts for 20-3 lead at the half.
The game quickly got out of hand in the third quarter.
Branson fumbled on its fourth play from scrimmage, with Nixa recovering and driving 21 yards, ending with a 5-yard pass from Potts to Sam Cochran.
An interception on Branson’s first play of the next possession set Nixa up inside the Pirates’ 10-yard line, and Childs scored from 9 yards out on the next play.
“We have to overcome adversity – when we faced adversity tonight, we didn’t overcome it early on and we let it spiral out of control,” Hays said. “We’re going to address that and teach these young men that you’re going to face adversity in life, but you have to finish strong.”
Things went from bad to ugly before it ended for the Pirates.
Branson was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the conversion following the TD run by Childs that made it 34-3.
Then when Childs scored from 3 yards out on Nixa’s next possession, the Pirates were flagged for two unsportsmanlike penalties, then another on the conversion.
“That was what I was most disappointed by,” Hays said. “We addressed it then, we addressed it just now and we’re going to address it on Monday.
“It better not happen again.”
Branson will try to end its losing streak in its home finale on Friday night, against a Carl Junction team that is 2-4 following a 17-6 victory over Neosho on Friday.
In other Tri-Lakes games on Friday, Hollister snapped a two-game skid with a 20-6 Homecoming victory over Aurora, while Reeds Spring fell to 4-3 with a 32-7 loss to Marshfield and Forsyth dropped a 46-8 decision at Stockton.