The Wildcats survived a sluggish start and rebounded from a 10-10 halftime tie to claim a 24-10 win over the Bulldogs. Carl Junction nearly doubled up Cassville in total offense in that first half, outgaining the 'Cats 124-63. Only a pair of redzone interceptions kept the Bulldogs from capitalizing on the yardage inequity.
The Wildcats lost two fumbles in the first half, the latter giving Carl Junction the ball at the Cassville five-yard line with just two seconds left before halftime. CJ's Reece Tholen nailed the tying field goal as the clock expired to tie the score at 10-10.
Cassville's first score came on a 30-yard field goal by Garrett Barnes with 4:44 left in the second quarter.
Just seconds later, Nick Tompson accepted the Barnes kickoff at his own five-yard line, ducked in behind a covey of blockers and raced 95 yards to give Carl Junction the lead. Tholen's PAT gave the Bulldogs a 7-3 lead and brought the homecoming crowd to its feet.
Tholen's kickoff found Ricky Nichols at the Cassville five-yard line, and the Cassville senior answered Tompson with a 95-yard score of his own to put the Wildcats back in front. Barnes' PAT sneaked inside the left upright to give Cassville a 10-7 lead with 4:15 left in the half.
Tholen missed a 41-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds, leading to the Cassville fumble-CJ field goal sequence that ended the half.
A solemn group of Wildcats returned to the field after the break and immediately started playing some real Cassville football.
After Tholen kicked off out of bounds while trying to avoid another Nichols return, the Wildcats marched 65 yards in eight plays to take the lead. Chris Dunker charged through the Carl Junction interior and scored from 18 yards out with 8:54 on the third-quarter clock. Barnes added the PAT for a 17-10 lead.
The Cassville defense pitched a shutout for the second half, and the offense provided an insurance touchdown at the 6:39 mark of the final quarter. The Wildcats scored on a two-play drive, as Trey Rose bolted 42 yards to the CJ 35-yard line on an inside reverse, and then Nichols scored off right tackle on the very next snap.
Barnes provided the final point of the night as Cassville secured a 24-10 conference victory over Carl Junction.
"An ugly win is still a win," Coach Large reminded his team afterwards. "You were in a real dogfight and still found a way to win.
"Carl Junction is a pretty good football team," Large added. "They are better than their record shows. This shows that you can't take anything for granted."
While the Wildcats were fortunate enough to survive their Week 7 scare, other ranked teams around the state were not so lucky.
Maryville fell to Savannah in overtime, 21-14. Logan-Rogersville faced a running clock while losing to Bolivar, 41-6. Oak Grove lost to Harrisonville, and Lutheran North went down against MICDS.
In other Big 8 Conference action:
* Lamar shut out East Newton, 42-0.
* Monett beat Mt. Vernon, 26-6.
* Seneca edged Aurora, 27-25.
Cassville travels to Monett to renew their fierce conference rivalry on Friday night. The game is also Cassville's first Class 3 district contest of the season.