There was no dry place for dove on the banks of Flat Creek on Friday night either. Cassville hosted the Carl Junction Bulldogs in the flood aftermath at Wildcat Stadium, and prevailed in a critical Big 8 Conference contest, 28-0.
The 'Cats tallied 346 yards rushing while holding the Bulldogs to just 113 yards of total offense. Trevor Tanner rushed for a pair of touchdowns, and Josh Lewright and Joseph Gouvion also found the end zone to account for the four Cassville scores.
The rain-soaked field didn't affect the game as much as was feared, but there were enough slips and bloopers to establish that good footing could not be taken for granted. The Cassville players seemed to have fewer problems negotiating the field than their opponents though. Or maybe their performance simply proved the old coaching axiom that a sloppy field favors the stronger team.
Carl Junction had some adjustments to make before the game even started. Star runningback Zach Waranch missed two games after being injured against Seneca, both Carl Junction losses. Athough Waranch appeared against East Newton last week, Coach Gosch was reluctant to test that injured knee on the muddy field against Cassville.
The Bulldogs also began the game without their excellent kicker, Nii Abrahams. Abrahams is known for his strong leg, which virtually guarantees eventual field position advantage to the Bulldogs against most opponents, but he was not available for the first half due to a soccer conflict.
The Bulldogs returned the opening kickoff to their own 46-yard line. Three plays later, Matt Thompson punted to the 16 following a strong stand by the Cassville defenders.
The Wildcats opened in the wishbone formation, running Gouvion off right tackle twice to set up third and 6.
"Cassville lines up in the wishbone again for the third-down play. Tanner has the snap, hands to Lewright running left. Lewright cuts it north and south inside the defender . . . he breaks outside, finds the sideline . . . one man to beat . . . he's gone! Touchdown, Cassville! That's a 78 yard touchdown run for Josh Lewright, and the Wildcats take the lead."
Matt Angel added the PAT, and Cassville led 7-0 with 9:03 showing on the first quarter clock.
The Bulldogs returned Angel's kickoff to their own 31 to start their second possession. Chase Price ran for four yards, then 10 on consecutive carries to give CJ a first down at the 45. Then on third and 7, Trenton Tanner snagged an interception at the Cassville 42 and raced to the CJ 30 before being dragged down.
Gouvion creased the line for seven yards, but the 'Cats gave back five of that on an illegal procedure penalty. On second and 8, David Large unveiled a new wrinkle in the Cassville offense.
"Wildcats line up in the wishbone, Lewright is under center! He takes the snap, pitches to Tanner around left end, he's got the corner. Touchdown, Cassville!"
Angel gingerly booted the PAT through the uprights at the muddy north end of the stadium, and Cassville held a 14-0 lead with 5:52 remaining in the opening period. The Carl Junction defense, which held Monett to a total of 14 points two weeks earlier, had yielded the same amount to Cassville in just six minutes and eight seconds.
For the rest of the first quarter and most of the second, the defenses and the poor field stymied the offenses. CJ's Thompson and Cassville's Travis Northern waged a punting contest that favored the Bulldogs when Northern slipped and only managed an 11-yard effort to give Carl Junction a first down at their own 43.
But Trey Rose picked off a Thompson pass to thwart that drive, returning all the way to the Bulldogs' 26. The Wildcats gained four yards in four plays and turned it over on downs, as Tanner fumbled the snap on fourth and 2.
Thompson drove his team out to the 4, and then pinned the Wildcats deep with a punt that died at the 11. Lewright was caught in the backfield for a loss on first down and then Gouvion also lost yardage. Tanner's long pass for Northern was in the receiver's hands but came loose when he landed hard. Northern punted out of his own end zone, and the ball was touched down at the Cassville 29 with 6:27 to play before halftime.
Thompson lost a yard on a quarterback draw then threw to Jake Stevenson to set up third and inches at the Cassville 19. Waranch made his first appearance in the game, gaining a pair of tough yards up the middle to move the chains. An offsides penalty against Cassville and two short carries brought up third and 2 at the 9.
"Thompson takes the snap, inside fake to Waranch, he throws in the end zone, Intercepted by Lewright."
Lewright's theft helped the Cassville defense dodge the bullet in the red zone, and the Wildcats started from their own 20 with 3:23 on the second quarter clock.
For this drive, the Wildcats shifted out of the wishbone set to the I-formation and even showed a split backs set. But the spread formations were all for show, as Tanner only attempted -- and missed -- one pass as Cassville mounted a 12-play, 80-yard drive.
The Wildcats rumbled down the field and took a 20-0 lead on Tanner's touchdown run on third and goal from the CJ 7 with just 19 seconds left in the half. For the second time in the contest, Tanner lined up at halfback in the wishbone, but this time took a direct snap from center and knifed through an opening to score.
Angels' third PAT attempt was true, and the lead stood at 21-0 at halftime.
Cassville received the kick to start the second half, went three and out, and Northern punted to the CJ 47. The Bulldogs drove to the Wildcats 18, with the longest gain coming on a personal foul walkoff for a late hit. On first and 10 from the 18, Thompson threw his third pick of the game. Cassville's Chris Smith intercepted inside the 5 and was tackled almost immediately.
With the field deteriorating and the temperature slipping into the miserable range, Cassville's O-line put on a clinic.
Gouvion, wearing #6 in the second half after shredding his usual #21 jersey earlier, gashed the defense repeatedly and Tanner found Northern uncovered in the left flat for a 13-yard gain out to the 47. Tanner kept to the left side but was tripped in the backfield for a loss.
"Tanner goes under center for second and 13 at the 44-yard line. Vittitoe and Gouvion line up in the power I. Gouvion takes the handoff . . . he's through the line and into the secondary . . . he cuts left toward the sideline, He's gone! Touchdown, Cassville!"
Gouvion's 56-yard romp capped an eight-play, 94-yard drive that put the game out of reach. Angel split the uprights to add the 28th point of the game. The long run was just the exclamation point on a night where Gouvion shredded the Carl Junction defense for 170 yards on 30 carries.
"We felt like he (Gouvion) needed a game where he had a lot of carries," said Cassville's David Large.
The fourth quarter deteriorated into penalties and miscues as the game wound down. Cassville's second-team offense even managed to draw a flag for delay of game while trying to take a knee and run out the clock. But the sloppy play at the end did nothing to diminish the quality of the win as Cassville avenged the heartbreaking loss to Carl Junction in 2008.
Large savored the first shutout of the year, especially since it came against a quality opponent like Carl Junction. In their six victories this season, the Wildcats allowed 7 points or less in five of the wins with Mt. Vernon tallying 19 against the black and gold defense.
This week's Cassville Democrat Wildcat Player of the Game award goes to every member of the defensive unit, in recognition of their first shutout of the 2009 season.
Cassville's record now stands at 6-1 with a perfect 4-0 conference record. The Wildcats, still ranked fifth in Class 3, will entertain the Monett Cubs, the top-ranked team in the state next Friday. Besides the bragging rights and conference implications, the Monett game is the first district contest for the Wildcats.
"We will find out how good of a football team we are this week," said Coach Large. "Monett will be a great challenge for us, and we are looking forward to Friday night."