By Joey Nosler
Last Thursday, the Cassville Wildcats traveled to Seneca (9-1/6-1) and demonstrated they had the ability to FINISH, the team's mantra since the start of the 2005 season.
In a battle of the undefeateds, Cassville was the victor, overpowering Seneca 49-7 on their turf. By winning, the Wildcats captured the district and Big 8 Conference championship titles.
The Wildcats (10-0/7-0) controlled the field, having 348 yards of total offense to Seneca's 179. The 'Cats had 339 yards rushing while Seneca was limited to 116.
Cassville's defense was a huge part in the victory, forcing five turnovers and returning one interception for a touchdown, while Seneca was unable to come up with a single turnover.
"I think all the kids and the coaches are feeling pretty good after the kids played a great game against Seneca," said Coach David Large. "I think that anytime you go over to Seneca's stadium, it's a neat atmosphere, but then you add the success of us and Seneca in a big game like that, it magnifies it even more.
"I was really proud of the kids and the way they played from the opening kick-off, especially against a team like Seneca," Large added.
This is a game that you could say will live in the minds of the players, and possibly the fans', forever. Not only did the Wildcats get the win, but they did what, at the beginning of the season, was only a dream.
Offensively, junior Brian Elkins led the way as he carried the ball 27 times for 252 yards and five touchdowns. Junior Tim Orrell went one-for-three on the night and had 10 yards on one carry. Orrell's lone completion of was to junior Jared Bouzek, who also had eight carries for 40 yards and one touchdown.
Other notables were freshman Jon Haney, who had two carries for 26 yards, senior D.J. Meadows, who had one carry for three yards, and sophomore Lane Stubblefield, who had one carry for four yards.
On defense, junior Nick Pianalto made an impact, being credited with five tackles, one for a loss. Seniors Justin Burden, Clay Craig, and Cody Ricklefs and Elkins followed closely, each being credited with four tackles. Ricklefs also had an interception.
Senior Dustin Libertus tallied three tackles and a fumble recovery, and Meadows had three tackles. Junior Shelby Hollingsworth earned two tackles while sophomore Dannon Rose had two tackles and two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. Sophomore Danny Naugle had two tackles, and Levi Mounce, another sophomore, had a fumble recovery.
Special teams were also strong. Senior Jason Bromley kicked off eight times for 464 yards, an average of 58 yards per kick. He punted once for 54 yards. Senior Nick Schlichtman went seven-for-seven on extra point field goals, and freshman Ethan Couch punted once for 27 yards.
"I thought it was an awesome win," said Elkins. "We came out there and did what we had to do to get the win."
Tonight (Wednesday), the Cassville Wildcats travel to Bolivar to play them in round one of the state sectional play. Bolivar has a 9-1 record and their only loss was to Carthage by a score of 55-14. Carthage is a Class 4 team.
"We're really confident about the game," said Rose. "We just need play as a team and finish, like we've done all year."
Coach Large also commented on the game, stating, "Well, it's a first round game against Bolivar, who's really good. Their one loss came to Carthage, but I'd still consider them a favorite because of Carthage being a good Class 4 school, plus they (Bolivar) made it to the quarter finals in last year's tournament, so they have more experience than we do.
"We're gonna have to play a much better ball game than we have all year," said Large.
Kick-off for Cassville at Bolivar is 7 p.m. The game will be played at Southwest Baptist University.