HOLDEN -- The Cassville Wildcats used a bevy of big running plays to subdue the Holden Eagles, 38-8, in a Class 3 sectional playoff game at Holden on Monday night.
Cassville led only 3-0 after a quarter but scored three more times before halftime to take a commanding 24-0 lead. The Wildcats pushed the lead to 38-0 with 42 seconds remaining in the third quarter before Holden scored its only touchdown in the fourth quarter to establish the final score.
The Wildcat Nation, arriving by car, truck, bus and plane, staked out the best seats early. A flyover at 5 p.m. revealed an already-full visitors section with folding chairs quickly lining the eight-lane blue running track. By game time, Cassville fans stretched from end zone to end zone on their side, appearing to outnumber the Holden crowd.
After handling Seneca in their first playoff game, the blue-clad Eagles could not overcome Cassville's obvious speed advantage. Holden's super-sized line caused some early problems for the Wildcat attack, but once Cassville found its edge was on the edge, the track meet was on.
All three of Cassville's second quarter touchdowns came on lightning-fast two-play drives. After battling to a near-draw in the opening period, Holden was in shock after allowing a 27-yard sweep for a Trenton Tanner score on the first snap of the second quarter. Garrett Barnes, who launched a 42-yard field goal late in the first quarter, nailed the PAT for a 10-0 lead.
The Eagles, held to a single first down in the first quarter, returned the kickoff out to the 26-yard line and then drove into Cassville territory before surrendering the ball on downs.
"Cassville football, second and nine at their own 42-yard line. Split backs behind Nichols, he takes the snap and rolls left. He's got a seam to the sideline, picks up a couple of blocks, cuts back against the grain, he's angling for the end zone, TOUCHDOWN, CASSVILLE!"
Ricky Nichols torched Holden's defense with the 58-yard scamper, and even with the missed PAT, the 16-0 Wildcat lead caused great concern on the home sideline.
Two three-and-outs by Holden sandwiched an ineffective Cassville series as the clock ticked away, and the Wildcats gained possession at their own 13-yard line with 2:22 to play before halftime. On first down, Tanner found room outside for 14 yards and a new set of downs at the 27-yard line.
"Cassville football, first and 10 at the 27-yard line. Nichols leads them to the line, Vititoe is the up man in the wishbone. There's a toss sweep to the left side with Josh Lewright, he's got the corner, gets a block downfield from Tanner, he's gone! SEVENTY THREE YARDS! TOUCHDOWN, CASSVILLE!"
Nichols kept off left tackle for the two-point conversion, and the Wildcats went to halftime with a 24-0 lead.
After bludgeoning Seneca with a powerful between-the-tackles attack, Holden was ineffective against Cassville's seasoned defense. Likewise, the Eagle defenders could not combat Cassville's advantage on the corners. Only penalties and missed opportunities with the passing game kept the Wildcats from a larger lead.
In the third quarter, the Wildcats had several missed scoring opportunities until Tanner popped free off left tackle and raced untouched into the end zone to establish a 31-0 lead after another Barnes' kick.
The Eagles mounted a drive that reached to the Cassville 30-yard line. On third and seven, Miller's long pass was tipped away in the end zone by Andrew Cole and into the ready hands of Trey Rose for the interception. Cassville took possession at its own 20-yard line following the touchback.
"Cassville football, second and five at the 25-yard line following the run by Kreg Myers. Split backs behind Nichols, he feeds Vititoe into the teeth of the defense. Vititoe breaks free into the secondary, it's a foot race to the end zone, they won't catch him. TOUCHDOWN, CASSVILLE!"
Vititoe's 75-yard gallop between the hashmarks put the exclamation point on Cassville's fifth two-play scoring drive of the ball game. Barnes converted again for the 38-0 lead, and the quarter ended on a squib kickoff from Stone Phelps.
Cassville's David Large substituted liberally in the fourth quarter, and Holden scored to slow the running clock. But the outcome was never in doubt in the final quarter as Cassville avoided the potential road upset.
The Wildcats return home on Saturday to face Logan-Rogersville, a 28-21 upset winner at Springfield Catholic on Monday night. The maroon Wildcats have hoped all year for a return shot at Cassville after falling 21-20 in the epic playoff battle of 2009.