Wildcats gave us reason to cheer

Thursday, November 15, 2007

This fall has provided Wildcat fans with another season of celebration. A number of the fall sports programs at Cassville High School have been highly successful and this has contributed to a renewed sense of pride among players and fans alike. During a recent conversation with Cassville R-IV School Board President John Sullivan, I learned an interesting fact. John told me that discipline problems at the school are often tied to how well the school's athletic teams are faring. The better the sports teams are doing, the fewer discipline referrals. Even though not all members of the student body are student athletes, all students can become part of a team's winning season by attending sporting events and cheering for Wildcat teams. Pride in Cassville High is deepened when fans, especially students, have the opportunity to support a winning team.

Football had another impressive season, going 9-1 and earning a share of the Big 8 Conference championship title. The team suffered a heartbreaking one-point overtime loss to Monett that interrupted the Wildcats' undefeated season, but the boys and coaching staff responded with class and ended the 2007 campaign with a big win at Seneca that gave them a piece of the Big 8 title.

The Ladycat cross country team had an outstanding season this fall. The girls won the Big 8 Conference championship, finished second in a tough district and qualified for the state championships as a team. Cross country is a sport that is extremely demanding and requires runners to log lots of hours throughout the summer and on weekends to be successful. I heard Coach Chris Shore say on numerous occasions that the Ladycat runners worked hard in the offseason, continued to improve in each race this fall and peaked at exactly the right time. This is a great group of girls and I am thrilled they were able to meet goals and achieve big things this season.

Those of us who are soccer fans had the distinct pleasure of watching our team exceed expectations and make it to the state Final Four. These young men had a phenomenal season, losing only one regular season game and beating top teams such as Carthage, Webb City, Ozark, Bolivar and Harrisonville. There were times when the Wildcat soccer team seemed like David facing Goliath, but this group of dedicated players always managed to dig deep and find a way to win.

There were many special moments this season, but I think playing in the Harrisonville football stadium in the state quarterfinal game with over 100 screaming Wildcat fans was one of the season's best memories. Our boys found themselves down 1-0 at halftime for the first time all season and used the crowd support to inspire them to a 3-1 come-from-behind victory. At the conclusion of the game, the soccer team ran to the sidelines to applaud their fans and the unabashed joy in their faces is a picture I won't soon forget.

In the end, the Wildcats finished the 2007 soccer season with a record of 22-3 and a fourth place state trophy. Heart and determination helped guide the team this year under the leadership of first year head coach Brian Wilbanks. This team's journey to state was an exciting ride and an unforgettable experience for all those involved with Wildcat soccer.

The outpouring of community support for the soccer team over the past week has been incredible. There were monetary contributions made to ensure the boys could enjoy good meals while in St. Louis, Les Jacobs donated vehicles to transport the team and others made sure the boys had snacks during the road trip. Others drove to St. Louis to support the team and once again the Cassville soccer 'Cats had plenty of cheering fans on the sidelines. Each gesture of support was appreciated and was noticed by the players.

As we said at the start of this editorial, the Wildcats gave us plenty to cheer about this fall. And while athletics are just one piece of the larger high school experience, in a small town like Cassville, supporting local sports teams plays a big part in community pride. When you see one of these young athletes around town, we hope you'll thank them for working hard on the field and in the classroom and for representing our community so well when they wear the black and gold.