Wildcats are headed to state quarterfinals
Cassville defeated Seneca 17-7 in Class 3 Sectional playoff action at Wildcat Field on Monday night to earn a return trip to the state quarterfinals on Saturday at Logan-Rogersville.
The Wildcats intercepted Seneca's Jacob Rhoades twice and used their ball-control running game to win a game of keep away in the second half while posting their 11th consecutive victory of the season.
The intense conference rivalry with Seneca has seen the visiting team win more than its share of victories in recent years, and this particular battle pitted two of the top 10 Class 3 teams in the state. Cassville, ranked #3, won at Seneca in week nine of the regular season, and the ninth-ranked Indians hoped to return the favor in the playoffs.
Seneca drove 80 yards in nine plays on the game's opening drive as Jacob Rhoades found Nathan Fortner down the sideline for a 45-yard bomb to give the Indians a first down at the Cassville 19. Dillan Webb scored three plays later, and the Indians assumed an early 7-0 lead. But Seneca would not score again in the contest.
Cassville answered immediately, driving the ball 60 yards in six plays. Josh Lewright plunged in from the Seneca two-yard line, and Matt Angel tied the game with his PAT.
Angel, who pinned Seneca deep with consecutive touchbacks on three kickoffs in the first half, hit a nine-iron 32-yard field goal for a 10-7 Cassville lead at the 9:24 mark of the second quarter.
Seneca reached the Cassville 29-yard line in the final two minutes of the first half, but Adam Prier picked off an attempted screen pass and snuffed out the threat.
Cassville's Trevor Tanner returned Bryce Morris' kickoff out to the Wildcat 48 to begin the third quarter. Seven plays later, Joseph Gouvion scooted untouched into the end zone from two yards out to increase the lead. Angel's PAT produced a 17-7 score.
Seneca had the ball for only three possessions the entire second half. Rhoades threw his second interception on second down of the Indians' first possession of the third quarter. While Cassville would not score again in the game, they ate up huge chunks of the clock on their possessions. The Indians moved the ball too but could not penetrate the Cassville red zone.
The stalwart Wildcat defense held star runningback Dillan Webb to less than 60 yards on the night. Meanwhile, Cassville rushed for over 250 yards, led by Trevor Tanner's 150 yards on 21 carries. Joseph Gouvion added 89 more yards on his 23 carries and scored his 28th touchdown of the season.
Seneca's last serious scoring threat came on the second play of the fourth quarter. Webb reversed his field on an off tackle run and raced 31 yards to the Cassville 9-yard line. But a holding penalty against the Indians placed the ball instead on the Seneca side of the 50, a 42-yard turnaround.
Trevor Tanner is the Cassville Democrat Player of the Game. Adam Prier and Bo Blissard also deserve some honorable mention after intercepting passes in critical situations in the game.
"It was just a great high school football game," said Cassville's David Large after the teams had left the field. "We had good execution up front and got some good option game going. That drive to start the second half was big, that put momentum on our side."
Large said the Wildcats had hoped to meet Logan-Rogersville in the playoffs this year, and that his players looked forward to the challenge.
Logan-Rogersville downed Mountain Grove 21-7 on Monday night to set up the playoff rematch. Game time is 1:30 p.m. on Saturday at Rogersville.