Wildcats down Cubs 35-7
The Cassville Wildcats opened Class 3 District 11 play on Friday night, controlling Monett 35-7. The Wildcats scored twice through the air with the Ricky Nichols to Josh Lewright connection and had another touchdown set up by a Trenton Tanner punt return to complement their usual steady ground game. The Cubs scored on a 51-yard punt return by Broc Wolfe late in the third quarter.
The Battle of Barry County produced a game that belied the disparity in the records of the two teams. Monett (2-5) fought Cassville (7-0) as hard as any team on the schedule and trailed by only a touchdown after one quarter of play. Cassville's Kyle Brattin scored his 13th touchdown of the season to break the scoreless tie at the 5:39 mark, and Garrett Barnes added the PAT for the 7-0 score.
Two long Monett drives produced no points in the second quarter. Garrett Kirk intercepted a long pass from Tyler Green and fell out of bounds at the Wildcats' one-yard line to end one threat. Then Andrew Cole sacked Green on fourth and six from the Cassville 28-yard line to stop the following march.
Nichols immediately drove the 'Cats down the field in just four plays, finding Lewright with a 25-yard strike at the goal line for a second Cassville touchdown with 6:42 on the second quarter clock. Barnes made it a 14-0 lead with his successful conversion.
On the road against their biggest rival, the Cubs needed a big play. Instead, they went three and out, as the Monett coaching staff elected not to go for fourth and one inside their own 40-yard line. Chris Eimer's rugby-style punt rolled dead at the Cassville 17-yard line with 4:11 remaining before halftime.
Cassville wore down the clock and the Cubs with a 12-play, 83-yard drive. A bad snap in the shotgun formation put the Wildcats in a third and forever situation at the Monett 30-yard stripe, but Nichols tossed a rainbow in the endzone and Lewright simply ran to the ball down the west sideline for the touchdown with less than a minute remaining in the half. Barnes connected for a 21-0 lead.
Cassville accepted the second half kickoff and promptly drove 78 yards in eight plays. The Barnes kick opened a 28-0 lead with 9:28 to play in the third quarter.
Monett punted in Cassville territory to end a promising drive. Cassville collected one first down, but then Wolfe returned a Storm Phelps punt 51 yards for the only Monett touchdown of the night.
Cassville's starting tailback, Kyle Brattin, was injured on the punt return but left the field under his own power.
Although Monett recovered the expected onside kick, there would be no more scoring from the visitors. Green was intercepted twice in the fourth quarter with the second resulting in a 12-yard scoring run by Kirk. The Wildcats stopped the Cubs on a goal-line stand in the final minute to preserve the 35-7 score.
Monett falls to 2-6 on the season and 0-1 in district play. The Cubs host Seneca on Friday night.
The Wildcat Express continued its impressive run, improving to 8-0 on the season while extending the unbeaten string to 22 consecutive games.
Injuries have crept into the picture late in the season. Justin Pflug's return is doubtful. Chris Smith, one of the best cover men in the state, watched the Monett game from the sideline on crutches. Kyle Brattin and Zach Vititoe, half of the starting backfield, both left Friday's game with injuries. Vititoe returned, Brattin didn't.
The Wildcats have two district games remaining, both on the road. Cassville travels to East Newton on Friday night before ending the regular season on Thursday, Oct. 28 at Seneca. The Indians beat East Newton, 56-6, in the other Class 3 District 11 contest on Friday night.
While the rest of the state speculates about the possibilities of what late November might bring, the only trifecta on Coach David Large's mind is the three-game gauntlet of district games standing between his Wildcats and an undefeated regular season.
One down, two to go.