The Cassville Wildcats showed some obvious strengths but struggled to hold onto the football at the 2010 Jamboree at JFK Stadium in Springfield on Friday night.
Springfield Parkview High School hosted Cassville, Neosho and Willard at the event. Teams from around the state came together at the various Jamboree sites for the opportunity to get in some live snaps before the regular season opens next Friday.
The Jamborees have grown from those early days when they were considered as no more than a glorified practice. Nowadays, at venues from Kansas City to St. Louis and Joplin to the bootheel, teams show up in full game dress accompanied by an army of coaches, cheerleaders and fans. The Wildcat Nation easily outnumbered the cheering contingents from the other three schools at Springfield.
There are no special teams plays, so the punters and placekickers remain hidden for another week.
Each series began at the defense's 40-yard line. If the offense scored, was stopped on downs or turned the ball over, that team simply restarted back at the 40 until its 12-play turn was completed. Then the teams switched sides and continued play. When both teams finished their dozen plays, the players shook hands and moved on to find a new opponent.
The experienced Wildcat defense was impressive on this night. None of the three opponents scored against Cassville, although the host Parkview team drove deep into Wildcat territory before bogging down. The 'Cats owned the line of scrimmage on virtually every running play, and the defensive line and linebacking corps had opposing quarterbacks running for their lives on passing plays.
Adam Prier had a solid sack of Neosho's signal caller, Garrett Mahurin stuffed running plays repeatedly, and Trenton Tanner, Trevor Shumaker, and Bo Blisard offered solid support from their backer positions. Chris Smith and Josh Lewright provided superior coverage in the defensive backfield.
The Cassville offense presented a mixed bag of results. While the Wildcats scored against Willard and Parkview, they also turned the ball over against all three opponents. After the second fumble, Coach David Large had his offensive unit down doing pushups after every turnover.
But there was a lot to cheer about on offense as well.
Ricky Nichols looked very comfortable running the Cassville offense. The Wildcats switched effortlessly from one set to another, featuring their I-formation and split backs set, but also pounding the line from the Rhino formation, which is Large's version of the Wishbone.
Nichols showed speed and agility with the ball on running plays and was effective in the passing department as well.
Nichols scored on a 21-yard sprint off right tackle against Parkview after freezing the linebackers with a neat fake handoff. Kyle Brattin punched into the endzone against Willard, taking a handoff from Nickols in the wishbone set and plowing in from three yards out.
When the night was over, Coach Large didn't dwell on the turnovers but emphasized that this is a good football team, and one that looks better going into the first game than the team did last year.
The Wildcats open play for real on Friday night at Mountain Grove. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. The Mountain Grove High School football field is located at Fifth Street and North Greene Avenue in Mountain Grove, just two blocks north of Business Highway 60.