Wildcats impressive at Jamboree
Let the games begin.
The Cassville Wildcats turned in a businessman like performance in their jamboree at Springfield's JFK Stadium on Friday night. Cassville's defense pitched shutouts against Willard, Parkview and Neosho, while the offense reached the end zone against each of those same opponents.
The controlled scrimmage atmosphere of the jamboree provided glimpses of what to expect from the teams in the season openers, but fell short of a comprehensive preview. With no special teams plays included in the alternate-possession format, Cassville fans did not get to enjoy any booming punts from Stone Phelps or any highlight reel returns.
On the other hand, Wildcats fans really don't want to see Phelps punting the ball. Extra point attempts are always welcome though.
Willard's offense never penetrated the Cassville red zone. Gang tackling was evident on nearly every running play as Cassville's defensive line -- led by Drew Henbest, Jake Sizemore and Braiden Vaught -- controlled the line of scrimmage. When Willard tried to run outside the tackles, Logan Scott, Garrett Kirk, Cody Frana and Chris Dunker supplied the stops.
Eleven running plays netted Willard less than 30 yards, and Kayman Walker broke up the only pass attempt.
The sizeable crowd perked up with the first opportunity to see the new Cassville offense. The Wildcats scored on their initial snap when Hayden Prater knifed through the line and jetted through the secondary and into the end zone for a 40-yard score.
The Willard defense woke up after that play, and held the Wildcats in check. Quarterback Gabe Kirk worked through some early jitters and gained confidence as the scrimmage progressed. Ty Craig relieved Kirk for a set of downs and connected with Phelps for an 11-yard pass play.
Parkview's offense featured a trio of tall, rangy quarterbacks and a posse of undersized running backs. Cassville's defense gave up consecutive passes and allowed Parkview to reach the 18-yard line before stiffening. Jordan Fisher earned a highlight mention with a perfect form tackle to shut down a Parkview sweep.
The Wildcats scored twice against Parkview. Prater blew through the line and into the end zone from seven yards out, and Chris Dunker bulled in from nine yards out.
In the first eight plays against the Cassville defense, Neosho managed zero yardage. A couple of big pass plays helped balance the stat sheet, but the Neosho offense never penetrated Cassville's 20-yard line. Both Scott and Vaught were credited with sacks.
Cassville's offense lacked rhythm late in the scrimmage, but Gabe Kirk rallied and found Garrett Kirk with a 39-yard bomb to score on the final play of the scrimmage.
It was an impressive performance by the Cassville defense, and a solid evening of work for the offense.
"Our backs are making plays on athleticism, not because of holes," David Large told his team afterwards. "We have to do a better job up front."
Large also expressed dissatisfaction with the number of penalties, but seemed pleased with the overall performance of his team.
There were no major injuries for any of the four participating schools.
The Wildcats are all set to host Branson on Friday night. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.