Aurora used its mammoth line and a great defensive scheme to stymie Cassville's vaunted running attack. The Houn' Dawgs keyed on Ricky Nichols and Kyle Brattin the entire game and dared the Wildcats to beat them with the passing game.
Statistically, Aurora played the fourth-ranked Wildcats to a dead heat:
* Aurora's Clayton Sumner completed 13 of his 18 pass attempts for 148 yards and a touchdown and was intercepted once.
* Cassville's Ricky Nichols threw for 73 yards, completing three of six tosses, with one interception.
* Cassville's Kyle Brattin led all rushers with 60 yards on 15 carries, with Nichols limited to 26 on 15 carries. Junior running back Chris Dunker made his varsity debut in the fourth quarter and gained 28 yards on four carries.
* The Wildcats gained a total of 149 rushing yards on 44 carries.
* Aurora's Austin Lenox ran nine times for 50 yards, and Everett Basham carried 16 times for 41 yards.
* The Houn's finished with 139 yards on 39 carries.
This game swung on turnovers, special teams play and a couple of huge stops by the Wildcat defense. Penalties hurt both teams, but Aurora's mistakes were more costly.
The Houn' Dawgs saw a promising nine-play drive fizzle in the first quarter when Sumner was flagged for intentional grounding.
Then, a fumble by Sumner on the first play of the second quarter gave Cassville the ball at the Aurora nine-yard line. On the very next play, Brattin won the good hands award as he snatched Nichols' option pitch out of the air and raced to the end zone for the game's first score. Garrett Barnes was true with the placement, and Cassville led 7-0 with 11:48 left in the half.
Later in the quarter, Cassville's David Large showed a new wrinkle in the Cassville arsenal. On fourth and 11 at his own 43-yard line, Nichols dropped back in punt formation and executed a perfect pooch punt that rolled dead at the Aurora nine-yard line.
Both teams followed with three-and-out possessions, but Nichols dinked another punt that Garrett Kirk downed at the Aurora one-yard line.
On fourth and eight at the Aurora three-yard line, Manuel Rios punted out of his own end zone to Cassville's Stone Phelps. Phelps handed off to Rose in a deja' vu moment from the Prairie Grove game, and Rose raced to the 20-yard line before being tripped up. A personal foul penalty on Aurora advanced the ball down inside the 10-yard stripe.
"First and goal Wildcats at the Aurora eight-yard line . . . I-formation behind Nichols . . . he takes the snap . . . keeps off left tackle . . . Nichols flies over defenders and lands on his back in the end zone . . . touchdown Cassville!"
Nichols' scoring flip combined with another Barnes' PAT to give the Wildcats a 14-0 lead with exactly three minutes left on the second quarter clock.
The Wildcats would block a Rios punt in the final two minutes of the half, but the 'Cats were held on downs at the Aurora 24-yard line.
The Wildcats took the second half kickoff and scored in just five plays to extend the lead. On third and 11 from the Cassville 43-yard line, Nichols led Rose perfectly on the wide receiver slant, and Rose raced through the Aurora secondary and scored thanks to a crushing block by Phelps.
Barnes tacked on the PAT to create the 21-0 score with 9:43 left in the third quarter.
Aurora answered with a 13-play, 66-yard drive but came up inches short on fourth and two at the Cassville nine-yard line.
Defense prevailed for both teams as the second half wore on.
The Wildcats took over on downs at the Aurora 49-yard line at the start of the fourth quarter, but Nichols was intercepted on a long bomb intended for Rose. The Houn's took over at their own eight-yard line, but Rios was forced to punt again after only three plays.
Sumner, who had been ineffective passing throughout the game, suddenly got hot. He completed seven consecutive passes -- and had an interception nullified by a penalty on the Wildcats -- while leading the Houn's on a 95-yard odyssey that ended with a touchdown pass to Andrew Parker. Rios added the PAT and the score was only 21-7.
But time had run out on Aurora. Cassville only had to run off 37 seconds to end the contest and claim the Big 8 Conference victory.
Cassville's David Large was far from satisfied with the performance of his team.
"We did some good things defensively, but our offense was horrible," he said. "We had no consistency on offense. We've got a lot of work to do."
Large credited Aurora for a solid effort.
The Wildcats improved to 4-0 on the season and 1-0 in the conference with the win. Aurora slipped to 2-2 overall and 1-2 in the Big 8.