While Victoria LeCompte and Jake Musser enjoyed their reign as Homecoming Queen and King, there were no royal distractions for the Cassville Wildcats. David Large's troops played their most complete game of the 2009 season and dominated the Lamar Tigers to the tune of 42-7 at Wildcat Stadium on Friday night.
Tailback Joseph Gouvion rushed for three first-half scores, and Travis Northern caught a pair of touchdown passes from Trevor Tanner to propel the Wildcats to their fourth consecutive victory.
For five straight years, the Lamar Tigers have struggled to score against the Cassville defense. Since a 42-6 loss to the Wildcats in 2004, Lamar has suffered defeats of 50-14, 24-7, 42-7 and 35-0 in the Big 8 rivalry with Cassville. So it was no surprise that Lamar's streak of futility continued on Friday night at Wildcat Stadium.
'We need to get momentum early in the football game," said Cassville's David Large before the contest.
The visitors won the flip, and Cory Lear returned Matt Angel's kick out to the 21 for Lamar's first possession. The Tigers ran an offense called the "spinner series," using play fakes and misdirection out of a double tight end set with all four backs located inside the tackle slots.
"That offense came out three years ago down in Louisiana," Coach Large reported. "The whole concept is to confuse the defense and keep them from knowing where the ball is."
Cassville's Trey Rose wasn't confused. On third and 13 at the 18-yard line, Rose intercepted Trenton Doyle's pass and returned it to the 16 with 10:27 on the first-quarter clock.
Gouvion tried the line twice and netted a single yard. On third and nine, he broke off right tackle and raced into the end zone behind a Travis Northern block for the game's first score with 9:19 left in the first quarter. Angel's PAT gave the 'Cats a 7-0 lead.
Angel's booming kickoff resulted in a touchback, and Lamar went three-and-out on their second possession. Doyle's punt rolled dead at the Lamar 46.
"Cassville football first and 10 at the Lamar 46. Wildcats with the early lead. Tanner takes the snap, hands to Gouvion up the middle. He darts into the secondary, cuts right to the sideline, they won't catch him. Touchdown, Cassville!"
The Tigers were stunned by the one-play scoring drive, and the thud of Angel's PAT kick must have sounded like another nail in the coffin to the Lamar crowd. Cassville led 14-0 less than five minutes into the game.
The Tigers were under no illusions as to where this game was headed. So when three plays led to a fourth and three situation at their own 27, Doyle dusted off the fake punt page of the playbook and threw a strike to Zach Yokley for a first down at the Lamar 40.
Three plays later, Lear caught Doyle's pass only to be crushed by Trenton Tanner. Lear fumbled, and Josh Lewright covered the ball at the Cassville 37 with exactly four minutes left in the opening quarter.
On third and 12, Tanner pitched to Gouvion on the option play, and he reeled off a 33-yard run before being dragged down at the Lamar 32. On the very next play, Tanner delivered a long strike to Northern down the left sideline for the third Wildcat touchdown of the quarter. Angel's point after produced a 21-0 score.
The Tigers hurried through a three-and-out series of downs, and Tanner returned Doyle's punt out to the Cassville 33.
The quarter ended as Tanner drove the 'Cats down the field. Gouvion raced in from 10 yards out to complete a nine-play, 67-yard drive, and Cassville built a 28-0 lead with Angel's PAT. Four possessions, four touchdowns, and there were still 10 minutes remaining before halftime.
Lamar failed to move the chains again, and then Doyle was sacked by Matt Stockton on an ill-advised fake punt attempt. The Wildcats took over at midfield to start their fifth possession of the first half.
Tanner led Cassville on another ball-control drive, reaching the Lamar 14-yard line in nine plays.
"First down Cassville just inside the Lamar 15. Zach Vititoe and Gouvion line up in the I behind Tanner; Northern splits wide right. Tanner fakes to Gouvion, throws a jump ball in the corner of the end zone, Northern takes it away from Lamar's Brett Campbell. Touchdown, Cassville!"
Angel drilled his fifth PAT of the half with 4:03 on the clock, and Cassville opened a 35-0 lead.
Lamar would fumble again, but the Tigers finally held the Cassville offense without a point to reach halftime trailing by the same 35-0 score.
With the turbo clock running the entire second half, the third quarter passed with no score when Angel's 37-yard field goal sailed wide. Lamar mounted a drive to the Cassville 23, but Doyle threw incomplete in the end zone on fourth and 17, and the Wildcats took over at their own 30 to start the fourth quarter.
Reserve quarterback Ricky Nichols fumbled the first snap from center but covered the ball for no gain. Then...
"Nichols takes the snap, and hands to Seth Myers. He bounces outside, he's got a lane down the sideline, one man to beat in the secondary . . ."
Myers took it 70 yards to the house, and Cassville owned a 42-0 lead after the two-play drive.
Lamar finally scored, driving 65 yards against Cassville's reserves, and the clock ran out on the 42-7 victory.
"I was really proud of the kids tonight," said Coach Large following the game. "I was impressed with the way Trevor Tanner played. He's an athlete playing quarterback, and he's just now learning how to be a quarterback.
"Tonight you got to see Travis Northern step up and play well," added Coach Large. "We gave him some opportunities and he delivered for us. Joseph Gouvion is a real special player; he can do some things that are fun to watch."
For the night, Tanner was seven of 12 passing for 86 yards and looked very comfortable directing the offense. Gouvion was over the 100-yard plateau at halftime, and his three rushing scores pushed his season touchdown total to 13.
Northern hauled in two touchdown passes to add another offensive threat for the Wildcats and is the Cassville Democrat's Wildcat Player of the Week.
The big picture in the Big 8 is coming clearly into focus. Mt. Vernon, Aurora, Lamar and East Newton are out. Carl Junction is a good, solid team, but the losses to Seneca and Monett take them out of the conference championship race.
Monett, Cassville and Seneca remain unbeaten in conference play and have turned the Big 8 competition into a three-horse race. The Cubs sport an unbeaten record overall and have earned the state's #1 ranking in Class 3, while Cassville is ranked #6.
The biggest hurdle for both Cassville and Monett could very well be the temptation to overlook other opponents as they prepare for their Oct. 16 showdown in Cassville.
Cassville travels to Nevada on Friday for a nonconference battle, before facing the Big 8 gauntlet of Carl Junction, Monett and Seneca on consecutive Fridays.
"We've got our work cut out for us every week now," emphasized Coach Large.
(Directions to Nevada High School football field: From Highway 71 north take Highway 54 west exit (Austin Boulevard), continue west on Austin 2.5 miles, turn north on Spring Street and continue north one-half mile to Hickory. The stadium is on the left.)