The emotion of the opening game was palpable. Starting without longtime defensive coordinator Doug Weatherly, in whose memory the field house was dedicated before the game, the Eagles struggled. Pierce City only had the ball for four plays in the first quarter, while the Bears held it for 19, scoring on an 11-play opening drive plus getting a two-point extra point conversion from running back Logan Jones.
Pierce City went four-and-out on its first possession in the second quarter. But it was the defense that made its mark first. Sarcoxie running back Jade Bloss, who ran up 54 yards in the first quarter, was hit hard enough to pop the ball loose, recovered by Pierce City. Then Eagles running back Wayne Joe Sooter burst through the defenders on the next play to dash 41 yards for the score. The extra point failed, leaving Pierce City trailing 8-6 with seven minutes left in the first half.
Sarcoxie came charging back to open the second half, regaining possession an on-sides kick and scoring in six plays on a six-yard run by Jones. The extra point conversion failed, leaving the game tied 14-14 with 10:16 left in the third quarter.
Sarcoxie then tried its third on-sides kick of the night, giving Pierce City possession of the ball at midfield. Three plays later, Sooter broke through Sarcoxie's defensive line with a full head of steam and ran 36 yards to score. A successful crossfield run by Sooter gave the Eagles the two-point conversion and a 22-14 lead.
With less than two minutes left in the third quarter and getting two penalties in two plays, Pierce City started a drive from its nine yard line. Palmer broke through the defenders and dashed up to midfield with a defender an arm's length behind him. There the Sarcoxie player lunged and fell short, leaving Palmer untouchable to finish a 91-yard scamper for the score. O'Hara ran in the extra point, leaving Pierce City leading 30-20 with 34 seconds left in the quarter.
Charged up, the Eagles defense shut down the Bears in four plays, foiling two pass attempts. Taking possession on their 27 yard line, Pierce City scored again four plays later after a 24-yard run by O'Hara set up Sooter to tear through the center of the Sarcoxie line. Sooter ran 41 yards to score, leaving the tally 36-20.
Sarcoxie battled back, driving to the Pierce City 29 yard line in nine plays before stalling on an unsuccessful pass attempt. With just under five minutes left in the game, Eagles Head Coach Mac Whitehead called a time out.
"I need a four minute and 57 second drive," Whitehead told his players. "Stay in balance."
The Eagles responded with seven runs, switching between O'Hara, Palmer and Sooter, who kept the drive alive with a 29-yard dash on fourth down. Pierce City ran out the clock to claim the 36-20 win.
"Our kids responded well to adversity," Whitehead said. "They fought through it. We knew Sarcoxie was not going to roll over for us. I can't say enough about our kids."
Pierce City had 322 total rushing yards on 34 plays with six first downs. Sarcoxie had 345 yards on 66 plays and 18 first downs.
Palmer was the leading carrier for Pierce City with 139 yards on six carries. Sooter had 113 yards and two pass receptions.
Leroy Jones led the Bears with 198 yards on 25 carries.
The Eagles return to action on Friday on the road against Liberal.