The Cassville Wildcats traveled to St. Louis last Friday to face the Cardinal-Ritter Lions in the Edward Jones Dome.
With the Class 3 state championship on the line, the Wildcats, backed by a huge crowd of hometown fans, set out to prove they were worthy competitors as they took charge of the game early on in the first quarter and eventually dominated play to earn a 31-7 victory.
Following Aaron Jamie-son's opening 60-yard kick-off the Lions tried unsuccessfully to move the ball up the field and ended up turning the ball over on fourth down after failing to convert on a faked punt.
Cassville then tried to take advantage of good field position, but they too were unable to score after narrowly missing a field goal that also resulted in a turnover.
However, after holding the Lions on the next drive and forcing them to punt, the Wildcats swiftly took control of the game on the third play of the drive as quarterback Jake Nolan found Trevor Tanner for a 53-yard touchdown pass that put the first points on the board and set the tone of the game.
Jamieson followed it up with the extra point, making it a 7-0 game for Cassville.
Cardinal-Ritter began a long drive only to lose control again as Matt Stockton intercepted a pass that would lead to another touchdown for Cassville as Nolan was able to hook up with Joseph Gouvion for a 10-yard touchdown pass, which Jamieson again followed with an extra point to extend the Wildcats' lead to 14-0.
The Lions started the second quarter with control of the ball and were forced to punt, but they returned the favor on the next drive, forcing the Wildcats to punt the ball.
Cardinal-Ritter finally found their way to the endzone on the next drive as Trey Perry rushed the ball in from five yards out to score the Lions' first (and last) touchdown.
Markiki Hicks kicked in the extra point closing the distance at 14-7.
Cassville had another stalled drive and punted it away, but the Wildcats quickly regained possession on the fourth play of the following drive as Trenton Tanner picked off another pass for the Wildcats.
The Wildcats took advantage of the clock and ran nearly three minutes off as they worked their way into Cardinal-Ritter territory and eventually scored again as Jamieson kicked a field goal from 42 yards out to raise the score to 17-7.
The Lions played out the remaining time and ended their drive with a loss of yardage as Nathan Riehn and Garret Mahurin sacked quarterback Calvin Mooney to bring the half to a close.
As the second half got underway, the Lions kicked off and saw the Wildcats begin a drive that lasted for over four minutes, ending in a Cassville touchdown, as Jon Haney carried the ball in from seven yards out.
The following extra point attempt was good, giving the Wildcats a 24-7 edge on the Lions.
On the next drive nothing seemed to work for the Lions, as Cassville shut down one rushing attempt and two pass plays, forcing Cardinal-Ritter to punt once again.
The Wildcat offense took the field and began the drive that brought about what would later prove to be the final score of the game.
Following two nice runs by Haney and Gouvion, Nolan made a one-yard run for the endzone to put up another six points for Cassville. Jamieson kicked the extra point to extend the Wildcats' lead to 31-7.
The rest of the third quarter was a hard fought battle resulting in a series of turnovers by both teams, which carried over into the fourth quarter of play as both teams struggled unsuccessfully to score.
With only two minutes and seven seconds left in the game, Cassville took possession for the final time and eventually turned the ball over with only one second left on the clock.
Mooney, having time for only one more play, attempted to run with the ball as the Wildcat defense held the Cardinal-Ritter for a loss of yards and claimed the victory they had worked so hard for all season long.
The stadium erupted with cheers from Wildcat fans as they watched this group of young men fulfill the hopes and dreams of not only a team and coaching staff, but of generations of athletes and graduates who supported their program throughout the history of Cassville High School.
"I was proud of how ready our kids were to play," said Coach David Large. "They focused on winning the game and not just being happy to be there."
After the game was over, Cassville had tallied 297 yards in total offense, while Cardinal-Ritter accumulated 243 yard on the game.
Nolan passed the ball for a total of 64 yards and rushed for a total of 51 yards on the evening.
Haney led the night in rushing with a total of 113 yards, Gouvion carried for 70 yards, and Trevor Tanner ran for 12 yards total.
Trevor Tanner also led the game in receiving with a total of 54 yards, and Gouvion tallied 10 yards for the night in receptions.
The defensive players were very busy this week, with Mahurin, Trenton Tanner, and J.R. Woodruff making five unassisted tackles apiece. Stockton had three tackles for the night, Ethan Couch, Chris Smith and Josh Lewright each had two tackles, and Riehn, Brent Elkins, Robbie Coberly and Cody Pierson had one tackle apiece.
Coach Large was extremely pleased with his defensive players this week.
"Our defense did a great job of taking away what they wanted to do," said Coach Large.
Mahurin and Riehn finished the game with .5 and 1.5 sacks respectively, and Trenton Tanner and Stockton had one interception each for the evening.
The special teams played their part very well this week with Jamieson accumulating 360 yards on six kick-offs and 155 yards on four punts. Trevor Tanner had one punt return for 13 yards and two kickoff returns for a total of 19 yards in the game.
In an expression of gratitude to Wildcat fans Coach Large said "We can't thank the community enough for all of the support we have had during the run and the turnout at the Dome itself."
Congratulations to the Cassville Wildcats for playing such a memorable season and bringing home the Class 3 State Championship.