Wildcats clinch Big 8 title
With district playoffs just around the corner, the Cassville Wildcats put a stranglehold on the top seed for the Class 3, District 4 playoffs with a 43-7 victory at Aurora on Oct. 12. Four one-yard scoring runs and two touchdown passes from Gabe Kirk were more than enough for the Wildcats to improve to 8-0 on the season.
The Houn' Dawgs saw their losing streak grow to five games after opening the season with a promising 3-0 start.
Heavy rains in the area did not damage the playing surface, but the weather did affect the game.
Unexpected fog rolled across Kelly Field before kickoff, creating a nightmare for receivers and kick returners. The conditions matched the famous 1981 Gator Bowl, when Arkansas played North Carolina in a pea-soup fog that shrouded the Jacksonville stadium.
Trailing 21-0 late in the second quarter, Aurora answered with a 65-yard scoring drive to end the shutout hopes of the Cassville defense. Everett Basham's one-yard dive into the end zone with 1:44 on the clock and Cody Coatney's PAT cut the lead to 21-7.
However, on the ensuing kickoff, Garrett Kirk broke free down the Cassville sideline before being run out of bounds by Coatney at the Aurora 47-yard line. Then Gabe Kirk dumped a screen pass to Brent Thompson for a 13-yard gain and followed that with a rainbow touchdown pass to big brother to create a 28-7 halftime score.
The Wildcats scored on their opening possession of the third quarter when Gabe Kirk capped a 13-play, 79-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run. Lueckenhoff's PAT upped the score to 35-7.
Hayden Prater scored his second touchdown of the night on the second play of the fourth quarter, and Marcus Weatherman snared a bad snap and raced into the end zone for a two-point conversion to create the final tally of 43-7.
The win also clinched the Big 8 Conference title for Cassville. With just one week left in the nine-game regular season, no other conference school has less than two conference losses.
"We worked on the passing game more and expanded the play book," said Cassville's David Large. "Coach Clay Weldy did a great job calling plays."
"Gabe Kirk had a good game," Large continued. "He's a strong-armed kid and throws a good ball."
Cassville's fortunes suffered a serious blow late in the game when Garrett Kirk was injured. He will reportedly be out of the lineup for the remainder of the season.
In other Big 8 Conference action, Monett defeated Seneca, 34-26, Carl Junction came from behind to defeat Mt. Vernon, 21-17, and Lamar dropped East Newton, 49-7.
The ninth week of the season has Cassville (8-0, 6-0) at Mt. Vernon (5-3, 3-3), Lamar (6-2, 4-2) at Aurora (3-5, 2-4), Monett (5-3, 3-3) at Carl Junction (3-5, 3-3) and East Newton (0-8, 0-6) at Seneca (4-4, 3-3).
In the new playoff system, Cassville is in the Class 3, District 4 pod with Aurora, East Newton, Hollister, Monett, Mt.Vernon, Reeds Spring and Seneca. The seed system rewards the teams with the best records with home games against the lower seeds in the opening round, but then the games get more interesting in the 11th week.
Cassville and Monett fans well recall the events of 2008, when the Cubs defeated the Wildcats in the regular season and won the Big 8, but then Cassville won the playoff rematch and went on to claim the state title.
Coaches are superstitious and generally don't want to play a team twice in the same season. Six of the eight teams in District 4 are from the Big 8, so odds are good that there will be rematches down the line. The other two Big 8 schools -- Lamar and Carl Junction -- play in Class 2 and Class 4 respectively.