Preview: Wildcats must stop the pass
This week, we begin offering sports fans a preview article on the Cassville High School football team's upcoming opponent. This preview will appear weekly on the sports page.
On Friday, Cassville will open up its 2007 season by travelling to Branson to take on the Pirates.
Cassville runs a wishbone offense. This type of offense usually centers around the running game, which will promote the Wildcats' good backfield, which includes Jon Haney, Laith Hayward and Danny Naugle for the most part.
Branson on the other hand is in their second year of running the spread offense. The spread is almost the exact opposite of the wishbone as it centers around the pass. The Pirates will attempt to open up the field by playing three to four wide receivers on most plays.
Seeing as this is the first game of the season neither team has a record yet. Last year, Branson finished 4-6 in the Central Ozarks Conference and Cassville finished 8-1 in the Big 8. In 2006, one of Cassville's victories was against the Pirates, who fell 42-18 on Cassville's turf.
Cassville has many good players coming back and none might be more important in this game than senior Ryan Rowley, an All-District defensive back who will most likely have the duty of guarding Branson's Chase Westfall, an All-Conference receiver last year. Westfall was excellent in 2006, hauling in 491 receiving yards. The senior is Branson quarterback Caleb Roberts' favorite target and will need plenty of attention, but Rowley should be up to the challenge. Rowley led the team last year with five interceptions and has enough speed to keep up with almost any receiver in the area.
Cassville's offensive key player is actually split. It centers more around three players as opposed to just one.
Naugle, Hayward and Haney all need to show that they can play on this level. The Wildcats are invested in their running attack and need these men and the offensive line to produce in order to win.
For Branson possibly the player to watch out for defensively is Roberts. Roberts is still listed as a linebacker and was a second team All-District selection in that position last year. With Cassville priding itself on the run, Roberts could play a big role in the outcome of the game. If the Wildcats are able to neutralize him, they should have an easier time running the ball.
On Branson's offense it is again multiple players to watch out for. Mostly it is the tandem between Roberts and Westfall. The two have been heralded already this season as one of the best duos in southwest Missouri, and the Wildcats will have to hone in on their relationship.
Environment doesn't usually play a large part in the preview, but when the game is played at Branson, that all changes.
John Earl Chase Stadium provides quite an atmosphere, and one the Wildcats must not get too caught up in. JEC Stadium comes complete with a booming cannon for every touchdown the Pirates score and an entrance tunnel that they use to get onto the field. Plus, Branson prides itself on being a football town, and you can be sure there will be a ton of people there for the game.
Keys to the game
Stop the pass. Cassville must shut down Branson's spread offense. The easiest way for the 'Cats to do this is to force Branson into three-and-outs early and often to keep the Pirates from finding a rhythm. Also Cassville must guard against the deep ball as the Pirates are not afraid to throw the length of the field.
Control the line of scrimmage. Cassville needs to control the line of scrimmage in order for its offense to work. This means not missing assignments and players holding their own against a Class 4 defensive line. It is important to note that Branson this year has an undersized line and this should help the Wildcats.
Stay focused. It will be easy for those "newbies" to get lost in the moment of their first Friday night football game, especially in Branson's collegiate-like stadium.