For those who weren't there Friday night, which probably wasn't many, the Cassville Wildcats have started another football season off on the right foot with a 42-18 pounding of the visiting Pirates. Last season, Branson went 5-5 with a young team, and this year, that young team had gotten older and better and that showed in the game.
Branson runs their entire offense from the shotgun, giving them more of the appearance of a college team than a high school team. Branson got the ball first and they came out firing.
The Pirates' offense was sharp from the very beginning using a nice mix of passes and runs to put together a good drive that culminated with their tailback finding a seam in the middle and running for a 37-yard touchdown. After a missed extra point, the Pirates were on top 6-0.
Cassville started its first drive in a very predictable fashion with Brian Elkins running it up the middle. That run started a drive that would take Cassville all the way down the field and end with a seven-yard touchdown run by Michael Baker. Aaron Jamieson converted the extra point, and it was 7-6 Cassville.
After the initial two drives, both defenses seemed to anchor down a little more. Branson was able to convert on a lucky 43-yard touchdown pass to make it 12-7 near the end of the first quarter.
Branson's defense stopped Cassville on the next drive and then began a drive of their own. The Pirates made it all the way down to Cassville's 20-yard line when the quarterback threw a pass, which was intercepted by Ryan Rowley in a play that changed the momentum of the game.
That play seemed to shake Branson's quarterback up enough that he would have trouble throwing for the rest of the night.
Cassville opened the offense up a little more toward the end of the second quarter and ended up scoring on a two-yard quarterback sneak by Tim Orrell. Jamieson's extra point, and the Wildcats led 14-12 going into the half-time locker room.
Cassville came out in the second half and seemed like they had decided they had had enough. The Wildcats played excellently on both sides of the ball and showed Branson why Cassville was ranked third in the state in preseason polls.
The second half saw a good combination of play calling from the Wildcats. Elkins broke the game open a little more in the third quarter with a four-yard touchdown run.
In the fourth quarter, the game started to slip away from Branson as the Cassville defense applied pressure. Josh Rambo, Shelby Hollingsworth, Ryan Newman and Nick Pianalto tallied quarterback sacks in the contest while Dannon and Rowley recovered a fumble each. Elkins and Rowley accounted for the Wildcats' two interceptions on the night.
The Wildcat offense also came alive with Elkins scoring his second touchdown of the night on a 29-yard run. Baker also made it into the end zone for a second time on a 12-yard run, and sophomore Jon Haney scored on a 19-yard run.
Branson was able to get one more touchdown in the fourth to make it 42-18, and that is where the score would end.
Elkins: accumulated 213 yards rushing on 32 attempts, averaging six and a half yards per carry. Baker ran the ball six times for 44 yards and two touchdowns. Haney had five carries for 51 yards and one touchdown, and junior Danny Naugle had six carries for a total of 29 yards. Orrell carried the ball seven times for a gain of 39 yards total.
Rowley was a defensive standout for the Wildcats with seven tackles, one fumble recovery and one interception. Other leaders on defense were: Jared Bouzek, six tackles; Cory Howard, four tackles; Rambo and Elkins, three tackles each; and Ethan Couch, Brent Elkins, Shelby Hollingsworth, Newman and Nick Pianalto, 2 tackles each.
The special teams for Cassville did an excellent job. Jamieson was six-for-six on extra point attempts and averaged 53.6 yards on his kick-offs. Couch did a great job punting the ball. He punted four times with a punting average of 30.3 yards.
Next week the Wildcats will be traveling to Carl Junction to face the Bulldogs. Carl Junction lost to Monett in overtime last Friday after leading for most of the night. Needless to say the Bulldogs rivalry with Cassville is a good one, and it should be worth the drive to Carl Junction to see another great match up.