"They were out here staking out seats at 4:30 p.m.," said Large.
There was concern that the homecoming-like hoopla surrounding the home opener might be a distraction, even for an experienced team like the Wildcats. Cassville was playing at home for the first time since winning a second Class 3 state title, and the players and fans were both pumped to the max for this contest.
So there was much nervousness as well as anticipation surrounding the game as Cassville's Garrett Barnes teed up the ball for the opening kickoff. Skyler Ellis, of the Tigers, took the kick at the 10-yard line and handed off to Weston Bartholomew on the reverse. Bartholomew broke containment, and Trenton Tanner finally took Bartholomew down at the Wildcat 24-yard line.
The Cassville special teams have shone brightly in the 2-0 start of the 2010 football season, so it was a shock to see Prairie Grove return two kickoffs deep into Cassville territory in the first quarter alone. The Tigers ran their shell game return scheme to perfection as Cassville appeared confused and out of sync with their kick coverage.
The Tigers could not convert their great field position into points and turned the ball over on downs. On second and 12 at their own 25, the Wildcats fumbled the ball back to Prairie Grove with 8:48 to play in the opening period.
The Tigers faced another fourth down at the Cassville 24-yard line. Trey Rose picked off a hurried pass, and the Cassville defense provided the first points of the night.
"There's a pass into the left flat, it's intercepted by Trey Rose at the 21-yard line! He avoids a man and breaks free, He is on . . . his way . . . TOUCHDOWN CASSVILLE!"
Rose's score at the 6:23 mark gave Cassville a 6-0 lead. Barnes added the PAT for a 7-0 score.
The Tigers watched Barnes boom a touchback on the next kickoff, and then the Cassville defense forced a three-and-out. On third and nine from the Prairie Grove 35, Skyler Ellis ran the sweep toward the home sideline and was buried by Justin Pflug, Chris Smith and Tanner. On fourth and 10, Dakota Daniels punted down to the Cassville 42-yard line.
A first down incompletion and a six-yard gain by Ricky Nichols on the next play set up third and four for the Wildcats at their own 48-yard line. Nichols pitched to Kyle Brattin off left tackle, and he raced all the way down to the Prairie Grove 20-yard line.
Zach Vititoe, making his first appearance of the season, bulled for three yards on first down.
"Cassville football, second and seven at the Tigers' 17-yard line. Nichols at quarterback in the wishbone, he keeps left, breaks tackles, TOUCHDOWN CASSVILLE!"
Barnes banged through another PAT, and Cassville led 14-0 with 1:59 showing on the first quarter clock.
Bartholomew ripped the Cassville coverage a second time, returning Barnes' kickoff all the way to the shadow of the goal line. Tanner made a super effort to run him down just eight yards shy of the end zone.
Prairie Grove faced fourth and goal from the six-yard line to start the second quarter. Caleb Sugg ran the inside reverse into the teeth of the Cassville defense, found a crease and scored. Landon Allen's extra point cut the Cassville lead to 14-7 with 11:51 to play before halftime.
A Cassville punt, a fumble that was recovered by Bo Blisard deep in Tiger territory, and a Vititoe touchdown that was nullified by a penalty, led to a Prairie Grove first and 10 at its own 11-yard line. The Tigers stalled, and Cassville took over at the Prairie Grove 38 after a short punt.
The 'Cats drove to the Tiger 14-yard line in six plays. On fourth and two, Tanner hurdled into the line for five yards, and a facemask penalty gave Cassville a first and goal at the four. Nichols tossed to Brattin running left out of the wishbone, and he won the sprint to the pylon to open up a 20-7 lead. Barnes connected for his third PAT, and Cassville owned a 21-7 lead.
Prairie Grove tried to respond, running their hurry-up offense. But when Cooper Winters threw incomplete on third and seven from his own 21, all the Tigers had accomplished was to save time for Cassville to have a last-gasp drive in the half.
Tanner returned a Daniels punt back to the Wildcat 46 with 1:23 to play.
On first down, Nichols scrambled for 19 yards to the Prairie Grove 35, and then Tanner ran for 19 more on a draw play. With the clock running, Nichols found Rose with a pass down to the 11-yard line. Nichols ran a keeper to the seven, and Cassville called time with 35 seconds to play.
On third and one, Nichols threw incomplete for Rose.
"Wildcats have fourth and one at the Prairie Grove seven-yard line. Nichols drops to pass, he rolls right and throws back to Brattin on the left side. Brattin fights through tacklers, TOUCHDOWN CASSVILLE!"
Brattin scored with just 23 ticks left on the clock, and Barnes hit another PAT to give the Wildcats a 28-7 halftime lead.
Cassville kicked off to start the third quarter, and the defense turned on the heat. A holding penalty put the Tigers in a hole, and then Tyler Skinner sacked Winters on third and 11. Daniels' punt rolled dead at the Cassville 45-yard line.
Cassville turned the ball over on downs at the Prairie Grove 26, but the Tigers fumbled on first down. Adam Prier pounced on the loose ball at the Prairie Grove 25 with 8:25 on the third quarter clock.
"Cassville football, third and three at the Prairie Grove 18 after the Kirk carry. Nichols sets them in the I. Option left, Nichols keeps outside, he lowers his shoulder and runs over the safety, TOUCHDOWN CASSVILLE!"
Barnes added yet another point to give Cassville a 35-7 lead with 7:15 left in the third period.
The Tigers converted two big third down plays to move the ball out near midfield on their next possession. But Prier crushed Daniel Shrock in the backfield for a four-yard loss that led to another Prairie Grove punt.
Cassville had a rare three-and-out on offense, but Rose intercepted Winters again to give the Wildcats a first down at the Prairie Grove 47. Brattin cracked the line for nine-plus yards to set up second and a foot at the 37.
"Cassville with second and less than a yard to go at the Prairie Grove 37. Nichols fakes to Vititoe, keeps outside, He is gone. TOUCHDOWN CASSVILLE!"
Barnes put up his sixth PAT of the game, and Cassville held a 42-7 turbo-lead with just 4.3 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Tigers scored on the first possession of the final quarter, driving 71 yards against the Wildcat subs to create the final score of 42-14.
"Another step forward," is how David Large characterized the win.
Large praised his group of running backs but expects his offensive line to play better.
"We've got to get better up front," he emphasized. Of the special teams adventures, he said pointedly, "We need our best 11 on special teams."
Large was pleased with the play of quarterback Ricky Nichols, who scored three touchdowns and ran the option play to perfection.
"Just an athlete being an athlete," the coach said. "He has tools and skills, but he has things he has to get better at too."
Next up for the Wildcats is a tough road battle against undefeated Aurora. The Houn's came from behind to defeat Carl Junction, 35-14, and stay unbeaten at 3-0.
"We've got a lot of work to do before that game with Aurora," said Coach Large. "For Aurora, there's nothing bigger than taking another step forward and beating the Cassville Wildcats."