The Cubs were mauled by their Big 8 rivals, 27-0, before a packed house at Wildcat Stadium on Friday night. Cassville humbled the top-ranked Cubs, controlling field position, playing opportunistic defense and wearing out the Monett defenders in the final three quarters.
Monett had enjoyed a run of 26 consecutive regular season victories, dating back to an opening season loss to Carl Junction in 2007. Since then, the Cubs have owned September and October, despite falling in the playoffs to Harrisonville in '07 and to Cassville in '08.
The 27-0 beatdown also gave Cassville consecutive victories over Monett when the Cubs were ranked #1 in the state.
Before the contest, Cassville High School paid tribute to the football, cross country, band and cheerleading seniors and their parents. By the time the coin toss rolled around, Cassville and Monett fans filled the stands and overflowed onto the track and adjacent areas, completely encircling the playing field.
The Wildcats won the toss and deferred to the second half. Monett elected to receive at the north end of the stadium.
Neither team had any success in the opening period. Monett managed one first down after starting its initial possession inside its own 10. The Cubs punted and the teams traded three-and-outs. Then Cassville's Trevor Tanner fumbled to start the ensuing drive, and Monett recovered at the Wildcat 27-yard line.
A pass-happy Tyler Green completed two of three attempts to set up fourth and 1 at the Cassville 17. Matt Stockton plugged the gap to hold the Monett runningback to no gain, and the Wildcats took over on downs after the huge defensive stand in the red zone.
The kicking duel became one sided when Monett's Beau Bounous slipped to one knee when fielding a bad snap from center in punt formation. Cassville took over on downs at the Cubs' 39-yard line with 2:25 to play in the quarter.
The Wildcats still could not mount a drive despite the good field position, and Travis Northern punted out of bounds at the Monett 24-yard line.
Cassville broke the scoreless tie on the first play of the second quarter. Green coughed up the ball on a quarterback keeper on third and 6 from the Monett 28. An avalanche of players sent the ball into the endzone, and Cassville's Devin Linenbrink came out of the pile with the pigskin. The officials conferred briefly and then signaled "touchdown."
Even though Matt Angel missed the PAT, the 'Cats and their fans raised the roof over the early advantage.
Spenser Witt returned Angel's kickoff from the 8 out to the 24-yard line. Monett's feature runningback, Christian Privett, crashed the line twice for seven yards and then Green threw wildly on third down while running for his life from the Cassville pass rush. Trevor Tanner returned the Bounous punt out to the Wildcat 41 with 9:58 to play in the half.
For all of the first quarter and much of the second, the Wildcats operated their offense from the I-formation and a split-backs set. Like a stingy host at Thanksgiving, Cassville hid its wishbone until a critical fourth and 1 at midfield.
Cassville risked the hard-earned field position, electing for the fourth down try. Trevor Tanner went under center with Zach Vititoe at fullback, and Josh Lewright and Joseph Gouvion in the halfback slots.
"Wildcats line up in the wishbone for the first time on fourth and one. Tanner takes the snap, hands to Gouvion running right. He fumbles! Gouvion recovers and dives forward for the first down!"
With the drive still alive, Cassville ran from the bone 10 straight times to reach the Monett 7-yard line. On second and goal, Trevor Tanner lined up at halfback and scored off left tackle with the pitch from Lewright. Angel drilled the PAT, and the Wildcats led 13-0 with 4:31 to play before halftime.
Monett was shocked by the 14-play drive that consumed 5:27 of the second quarter. The Cubs had survived scares in preceding weeks against Aurora and Lamar but spotting Cassville two scores brought concern of a higher level to the Monett faithful. The Cubs needed a big play to spark their offense against the inspired Wildcat defense.
Instead, the Cubs got one first down and then Green was sacked by Adam Prier and Garrett Mahurin for a loss of 13 yards. Two running plays lost three more yards, and Cassville's David Large called a timeout to preserve the dwindling clock. Bounous's punt rolled dead at the Wildcat 30-yard line with 2:06 before halftime.
Cassville unveiled the trick play of the week on first and 10 as Josh Lewright threw a halfback pass out of the wishbone. But the ball sailed too long for Travis Northern to set up second and 10.
"Just under two minutes to play in the first half, Tanner calls signals from the wishbone formation. Tanner hands to Gouvion off right tackle, he breaks free into the secondary, down the sideline, he's hit by the Monett safety at the 10, keeps his feet, he's in the endzone! Touchdown, Cassville!"
Field position, turnovers, special teams, big plays. These are the areas that determine who wins big games. Gouvion's stunning 70-yard TD scamper supplied the missing ingredient for Cassville to claim superiority in all phases in the first half. Angel's extra point sent the Wildcats to the locker room with a commanding 20-0 lead.
But even with the visitors down three touchdowns, nobody was ready to count Monett out yet. The Cardiac Cubs, while not dominant in recent weeks, still found ways to win and continued to collect those first-place votes week to week.
Cassville's Lewright returned the second-half kickoff out to the 27-yard line, and the 'Cats stalled immediately. Three running plays netted only nine yards. Northern dropped into punt formation and boomed a 56-yard rocket that died at the Monett 9-yard line.
Alan Spencer's club immediately implemented their no-huddle offense, calling plays from the sideline only after peeking at the Cassville defensive alignment. The strategy also kept Cassville from substituting, but the plan was largely ineffective. Signaling the plays in from the coaches took longer than a normal offensive huddle, and precious seconds ticked away as Green deciphered instructions from his coaches.
Monett managed a single first down while burning nearly three minutes off the clock, and Bounous punted away on fourth and 9 from his own 20-yard line. Tanner returned the kick to the Cassville 40. Three plays later, Northern pinned the Cubs deep again with a punt to the Monett 15.
The Cubs advanced to midfield and faced a fourth and 1 at their own 49 with less than 5:00 remaining in the third period. Monett sent out the punt team, a play call sure to bring out armchair quarterbacks. Bounous drilled a kick into the endzone, and Cassville took over at the 20-yard line.
On second and 9 from the 21, Tanner completed his only pass of the night, finding Northern streaking across the middle from his wideout position. He accepted the pass in full stride and raced across midfield before being dragged down at the Monett 44-yard line, a gain of 35 yards.
The Wildcats bled the remainder of the third quarter clock, running off 10 plays while reaching the Monett 39. A holding penalty, Cassville's first rules infraction of the game, bogged down the drive, and Northern punted to the Monett 14 on the first play of the final quarter.
Green threw directly into Lewright's hands on first down, but the Cassville defender could not control the pass. Privett's rush set up third and 5 and then Green misfired again.
Even behind by 20 points late in the game, Monett would not go for it on fourth and 5 so deep in their own territory. Bounous launched his seventh punt of the game, and Cassville let it roll dead at the Monett 48 with 10:51 to play.
The Wildcats threw a change of pace at the Cubs, showing their split-backs set for seven plays while advancing deep into Monett territory. With the nose of the ball just outside the 10-yard line, the wishbone set returned for the home team.
Gouvion tried the right side for a yard. Lewright was stuffed for no gain on second down. On third down from the 9, Lewright ran off left tackle to the 6, and Monett was called for an inadvertent face mask penalty.
Lewright took the handoff straight into the pile on third down and went down a yard and a half short of the endzone. The Wildcats called a timeout to gather themselves for the fourth down play.
"Everybody in the stadium knew what we were going to do on fourth down," said Cassville's David Large later.
It didn't matter. The Cassville offensive line surged forward, and Gouvion shot into the endzone virtually untouched. Angel responded with another PAT to build the score to 27-0. Only 4:36 separated Cassville from the landmark victory.
Angel's kickoff went through the end zone, aided by a penalty against the Cubs. Linenbrink intercepted Green on the first play of the drive, and the air went out of the east side of the stadium.
The Wildcats ran nine plays, turning the ball over to Monett on downs at the 9-yard line with 14 seconds left. Privett ran for some statbuilder yardage as time expired on the Cassville victory.
"They played a great game," was Coach Large's assessment of his players. "The defense did a good job of getting momentum on our side, and the offensive line did a great job. Outside of the one pass play, the defense contained them and controlled the line of scrimmage."
Monett could not reach the 150-yard mark for total offense. Cassville rushed for 239 yards in the contest, and passed for 35 more. Gouvion led the Wildcat attack with 125 rushing yards with 103 of those coming in the first half.
Linenbrink scored with a fumble recovery and added an interception in the shutout to earn recognition as the Cassville Democrat's Wildcat Player of the Week.
The Wildcats and Cubs now have identical season records of 7-1, but Cassville is in the driver's seat for both the conference and district races. The Wildcats, 5-0 in the Big 8, and 1-0 in district play, travel to Seneca on Friday. The Indians have a big offensive line, talented runningbacks and a capable passer and could prove to be a dangerous opponent after the emotional win over the Cubs.
Monett will entertain East Newton this week before facing the same Seneca team on the road to finish the regular season.