The Eagles won the game on the defensive side of the ball, sacking Fredericktown quarterback Kyle Tesreau seven times while holding the ground-oriented Blackcats to just 98 rushing yards.
"I couldn't be more proud of our defensive effort," said NMCC coach Steve Rogers. "They've been catching a lot of flack, but we've got some good athletes on that side of the ball. They stepped up bigtime tonight."
The win makes NMCC plus 13 in the district standings heading into next Friday's showdown against Dexter.
"It was a big win for us on the road," said Rogers. "Fredericktown has got a very good team. They beat us at home last year and that hurt, because I thought we were the better team. Tonight, it was a toss up going in and it was a toss up until the dust cleared. We were fortunate to win, but our kids played hard and deserve it."
Remond Willis checked in with another impressive performance, rushing for 120 yards on 19 carries. He also had 27 receiving yards and scored all three NMCC touchdowns.
Willis is currently second in the SEMO Conference with 1,543 yards through eight games.
"They've got a good football team," said Fredericktown coach Kent Gibbs. "They're a very talented bunch and they didn't make any mistakes tonight. That's the way you've got to play if you want to put yourself in a position to win a district championship."
The Eagles' first score came on their opening drive. After a TD pass bounced off the shoulder pads of wideout Edgar Givens, quarterback Darrel Newsom hooked up with Willis for a 27-yard TD pass to make it 7-0.
"That was our 44-belly pass," explained Rogers. "We just put that in this week. It's one of Coach (Matt) Hartman's inventions. We run a couple of guys deep and slip Remond out in the flat. It worked out real well for us tonight."
NMCC (6-2) added another touchdown in the second quarter. Willis capped off a 10-play drive with a 1-yard TD plunge at the 9:22 mark to put the Eagles up 14-0.
Fredericktown (5-3) answered with its first score of the game, as Tesreau threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to George Depuy. After the Eagles were called offsides on the PAT attempt, Kyle Stephens ran in the two-point conversion to shave the lead down to 14-8 with 7:56 left in the second. The momentum then stayed with the Blackcats as they kicked and recovered an onside kick. But Fredericktown was unable to take advantage of the situation. On third and short, NMCC's Brandon Waters came up with a huge sack on Tesreau to force a punt.
NMCC turned the ball over on downs at the Fredericktown 14 with 2:52 left in the half. The Blackcats attempted a bit of trickery, but a halfback pass from Stephens was intercepted by Givens on the Fredericktown 40.
The Eagles were unable to score before halftime.
After a 40-yard TD pass to Givens was called back for illegal motion, a Newsom pass was intercepted by Fredericktown's Micah Reutzel at the goal line.
"Our defense played good enough to win tonight," said Gibbs. "(NMCC) made some big plays, but they didn't have those 60-, 70- and 80-yard runs on us."
Fredericktown looked to take control of the game on the first drive of the third quarter, marching 78 yards all the way down to the NMCC one-inch line. An illegal procedure penalty pushed them back five yards, and on 4th-and-5, Givens sacked Tesreau for a 10-yard loss.
"We moved the football tonight, but when it gets right down to it, we didn't play well enough on offense to win," said Gibbs. "I'm not displeased with anybody's effort. I'm just disappointed that we made so many mistakes that it kept us from winning."
The Eagles took over on their own 15 with 5:03 left in the third. NMCC then broke Fredericktown's back with a 14-play scoring drive that covered 85 yards and ate seven minutes off the clock.
"That was probably the turning point in the game," said Rogers.
Willis had his best run of the night in that drive, slamming Fredericktown's Nick Darnell to the turf with a vicious stiff arm at the 25-yard line. The play set up a 4-yard TD run by Willis to put NMCC up 21-8 with 10:22 left in the game. "We are blessed to have two good coaches in the weight room, and our kids are stronger than most other high school kids," said Rogers. "Our conditioning and strength both paid off big for us tonight."
Fredericktown looked to get back in the game with an all-out air attack. Waters came up with two huge sacks in that drive, then on 4th-and-11, he forced Tesreau out of the pocket. Printice Willis tackled the quarterback at the line of scrimmage, turning the ball back over to NMCC with 5:28 left. "(Waters) played real well tonight," said Rogers. "This is a kid that has only played football three years. He didn't play in junior high and didn't play as a freshman. He's still learning the game, but he's a tremendous physical talent."
After three running plays, the Eagles were faced with a 4th-and-15 at their own 20. NMCC attempted a trick play with a direct snap to Willis. He threw an incomplete pass, giving the ball back to Fredericktown with 3:41 left.
After two short runs, NMCC's defense came up big again as Givens sacked Tesreau for a nine-yard loss. The Blackcats attempted a long pass to DePuy on fourth down, but it fell incomplete.
"If you can hold a quality team like Fredericktown to just eight points like we did tonight, you're going to win a lot of football games," said Rogers.
The Eagles took over with 2:05 left and were able to run out the clock with three runs up the gut by Larry Kirby, followed by a quarterback kneel by Newsom.
"Larry Kirby has been a great blocker for us all year long," said Rogers. "But when we can spread the defense by sweeping and running wide, he's going to get four or five every time up the middle. He doesn't fumble the ball and he's hard to bring down."
Behind Willis' 120 yards, Givens carried the ball 11 times for 60 yards. He ran the ball exclusively at one point in the third quarter, taking advantage of his speed on sweeps to the wide side of the field.
"With Remond playing both ways and running the ball so much, it takes a lot out of him," said Rogers. "We thought we would let him catch his breath, get a drink and towel off there. Both (Willis and Givens) are Division I quality athletes."
Kirby also had 11 carries for 34 yards. Sherman Newsome led all receivers with three catches for 24 yards. He replaced Mack Kimble, who went down in the first half with a hip pointer.
Vaughn Shepherd had two catches for 16 yards and Willis caught one for the 27-yard touchdown.
For Fredericktown, Stephens led all rushers with 86 yards on 11 attempts.
DePuy had 34 yards on 10 carries and McDaniel had 12 yards on five attempts. DePuy had three catches for 63 yards, McDaniel had three for 53, Stephens had two for 16 and Cory Cissell had one for 10. Tesreau threw for 142 yards on 9-of-13 passing.
Fredericktown will face Kennett this Friday while NMCC plays host to Dexter, the defending district champion.
"We've got Dexter coming in, and they play well against us," said Rogers. "Our defensive coordinator's brother (Aaron Pixley) is the head coach there. (Assistant coach) Gavin Miller and he were both on our staff at one time. They always get up for us. We're expecting a tough ballgame."