'Cats mark homecoming with shutout
The Cassville Wildcats reached 5-0 with their 49-0 whipping of Mt. Vernon on Friday night. Trenton Tanner may have been the homecoming king, but Kyle Brattin was the master of ceremonies, scoring three touchdowns to lead the Wildcats to their second Big 8 Conference victory.
The Wildcats built a 35-0 lead before halftime with their trademark dominating defense creating a huge advantage in field position. Cassville owned the football for six drives in the first half, starting those possessions on their own 46, at midfield, their own 44, Mt. Vernon's 46, their own 43 and Mt. Vernon's 46. Only bobsledding has more downhill action than Cassville enjoyed against Mt. Vernon.
Five of those short-field possessions resulted in touchdowns with the other thwarted by a turnover.
The Mountaineers entered the game with a 1-3 record. Only 33 players suited up for the green and white, not a good omen for any team playing against the deep bench of Cassville.
The Wildcats, who have been the unanimous #1 pick in Class 3 in every poll since the season started, had their focus on extending their 18-game winning streak. While most teams consider week five the halfway point of the season, teams with championship aspirations like Cassville see it as just one third of the hoped-for journey.
Mt. Vernon caused immediate concern on the Cassville side when they drove for a first down in three plays on their opening possession. Kyler Shoff, the Mountaineers' highly regarded quarterback, found Caleb Myers open on third and nine to move the chains.
Shoff directed his offense into Cassville territory, but the Mountaineers turned the ball over on downs at the Wildcat 46-yard line.
The Wildcats opened in the wishbone formation for the first time this season, intent on using their size advantage in the interior. Quarterback Ricky Nichols led the offense on a seven-play drive to the end zone, taking just 2:38 off the clock. Brattin, who carried three times for 23 yards on the drive, broke tackles and spun into the end zone from nine yards out with 6:40 to play in the opening quarter.
Garrett Barnes added the conversion for a 7-0 Cassville lead.
The points piled up quickly. Brattin scored again to finish a five-play, 50-yard drive with 3:22 left in the first quarter, and Barnes made it a 14-0 game. Cassville bulldozed Mt. Vernon throughout the first quarter, opening huge holes with their "rhino" wishbone package.
With the clock running out in the period, Nichols bombed away, finding Josh Lewright with a perfect strike down the left sideline. The 25-yard pass play resulted in the third Cassville touchdown, and another Barnes kick made the score 21-0 as the teams switched ends.
Chris Smith smeared Mt. Vernon's Ryan Lacey at the 10-yard line on the kickoff, and the Mountaineers started deep in their own territory again. Three plays later, Sam Cowherd's punt rolled dead at the visitors' 46-yard line.
From that spot, Nichols drove the Wildcats on a third-consecutive, five-play scoring drive. Brattin found the end zone for the third time in the game, blasting in from two yards out with 9:11 left in the half. Barnes contributed another point, and the Wildcat lead grew to 28-0.
Barnes nailed a touchback with his kickoff. The Mountaineers tried two reverses and a draw, but Smith, Preston Forsythe and Dre' Johnson closed all the doors to force another punt. A pair of penalties slowed the following drive, but Nichols found Zac Vititoe open in the right flat, and the Wildcat fullback followed his downfield blocking in for a 27-yard touchdown.
"He's a true fullback," Coach David Large said of Vititoe after the game, "not an imposter just filling the position. He has a great attitude, works hard and can catch the ball out of the backfield."
The teams left the field at intermission with Cassville holding a commanding 35-0 lead.
Cassville fans know not to linger too long at the concession stand at halftime. Large's troops consistently score on their opening possession of the third quarter, and this game was no exception.
Mt. Vernon's Devon Morris popped a little squib kickoff that Garrett Kirk downed at the 37-yard line. Kirk, Cassville's speedy change-of-pace back, then wormed through the line for four yards on first down.
"Cassville football, second and six at their own 41-yard line. I-formation with Vititoe and Kirk behind Nichols. Nichols hands to Vititoe, he explodes through the line into the second level. It's a footrace to the end zone. Shane Williams finally drags him down at the one-yard line!"
Vititoe got the call again on first and goal, and his touchdown with 10:29 on the third quarter clock gave Cassville a 41-0 lead. Barnes converted his sixth PAT of the game to up the tally to 42-0.
Things got a little sloppy after that as Cassville substituted as many players into the homecoming game as possible. But the focus remained, as the Wildcat defenders fought to preserve their first shutout of the season.
Midway through the final quarter, Mt. Vernon faced third and one at its own 15-yard line. Austin Weldy took the handoff and disappeared into the line. Reserve linebacker Stone Phelps came flying out of the pile with the football and sprinted into the end zone for another Cassville touchdown. Phelps stayed on to kick the PAT for a 49-0 score.
The crowd got one last scare when Dima Spellman broke loose for a 23-yard gain in Cassville territory, but the clock expired on the play and the Wildcats owned their first shutout of 2010.
"The shutout is not something we live for but still represents a great job by our defense," said Large after the game.
Cassville wound up with over 300 yards rushing against Mt. Vernon.
"They had some good skill players, but our advantage was definitely up front," noted Large.
Of Kyle Brattin's three-score night, the coach commented, "He ran hard, and we did a good job of getting our down blocks."
The Wildcats, now 5-0 on the season and owners of a 19-game winning streak, will travel to Lamar to face the dangerous Tigers on Friday night. Lamar played a strong game against Seneca, before yielding three touchdowns in the final six minutes in a 42-22 loss.
Lamar is 3-2 on the season with wins over Carl Junction, Mt. Vernon and Monett.
This should serve as a measuring stick game, not only for the Wildcats, but also for the Seneca Indians as they both try to gauge their relative strengths in preparation for their late-season collision.