Over 100 wins and still counting
With a 42-0 victory over East Newton on Oct. 5, Cassville's head football coach David Large collected his 100th coaching victory at the helm of the Wildcats.
"We have been blessed with kids that were coachable and who worked hard," said Large. "The coaching staff and I have worked hard to create an environment where kids can learn and have fun. The rest took care of itself."
Since taking the reins of the black and gold, Large has led the Wildcats to two state titles, four district titles and seven conference championships.
Prior to Large's era, the Wildcats were 49-62 from 1991 to 2001, winning only 44 percent of their gridiron contests. A 7-4 season in 1998 under then first-year coach Bret Gosch gave the Cassville faithful its only taste of the Missouri prep playoff atmosphere.
After the 2001 season, Gosch departed southern Barry County and took the head position at Carl Junction.
In 2002, Cassville hired Large, who had transformed an underachieving program at El Dorado Springs into a solid football unit. While at the helm of the Bulldogs, Large compiled a 29-15 record, winning two district titles and advancing to the Class 2 semi-finals. He was also named the Class 2 Coach of the Year.
When asked about the secret to his coaching success, Large is more than willing to divulge the information.
"I have never considered myself a great football coach," said Large. "I do consider myself to be a great judge of character. When I assembled my staff, I didn't care how much they knew. I asked myself a simple question. 'Do I want to be around this coach and can they relate to the players?'"
Large stated that his staff is more than just a unit centered on teaching the principles of a game.
"We're friends," said Large. "We hangout on the weekends. We get together to watch games and have fun outside of our job. It's a bond that drives us to coach with high expectations for each other and our athletes."
Assistant coach Jay Rogers, who has been on the sidelines with Large since he was at El Dorado Springs, echoed his long-time friend's sentiment.
"David is a true professional," said Rogers. "He creates an environment that makes you want to do your best every day. We're such a tight knit group that we don't want to let the other coaches or players down."
Large's first season at Cassville was anything but ideal. The Wildcats had several close calls but couldn't break into the win column, going 0-10.
"Everything we have achieved since our first year together until now on the football field can be attributed to that first season," said Cassville defensive coordinator Lance Parnell. "When you are winless during a season, about the only friends you have in the town are your fellow coaches."
Luckily, the Cassville faithful didn't give up on Large and his staff.
Laying the foundation
Going back to the drawing board after that initial season, the Wildcat football leadership decided to employ the K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid) method.
Cassville placed heavy emphasis on three specific areas.
On offense, the Wildcats went to a ball-control wishbone attack that took pressure off the offensive line to sustain blocks for extended periods during plays.
On defense, Cassville wanted to be more physical.
"We had a good set of kids returning on the defensive side of the ball," said Large. "We gave them ownership and challenged them to lead this team."
The third and most important feature the coaching staff emphasized was attention to detail.
"We stressed the need to pay attention to every detail, both on and off the field," said Large. "We held locker room inspections. We made sure the kids picked up after themselves. We even lined them up and checked if they had shaved. It was all about the details and instilling a strong work ethic."
The Wildcats' new approach to the season paid dividends quickly with Cassville achieving a 7-4 mark and its second playoff berth in 12 years.
"We started winning games the next season," said Large. "They were close and defensive battles."
Of the Wildcats seven wins, six were by 8 points or less.
"We lost to Harrisonville in the playoffs, the eventual state champions that season," said Large. "I was very proud of our team. They laid the foundation for our program."
Five years later, Cassville stood in the middle of the field at the Edward Jones Dome holding a state championship trophy of its own.
"I will never forget coming back into town after that victory and having so many fans and cars lining the road to the high school," said Large. "The support that the Cassville community has given to our staff is what makes this the best job in the world."
Parnell agreed and added.
"David made this job fun and exciting," said Parnell. "He demands a lot of his staff and his players, but the results speak for themselves."
Frank Sinatra used to croon, "I did it my way." In similar fashion, Large and his staff did it their way.
"As a coaching staff we went and observed how other state championship teams prepared. We listened to those coaching staffs explain the importance of 6 a.m. practices, multi-hour summer weight lifting sessions and grueling practices," said Large. "We don't push our kids that hard. What we want them to do is have fun and learn. We decided to use our own method of creating a disciplined, fundamentally sound unit, that has a sense of ownership and community pride."
Large's record at Cassville
* 2002-03: 0-10
* 2003-04: 7-4
* 2004-05: 7-3
* 2005-06: 11-1
* 2006-07: 8-1
* 2007-08: 9-1
* 2008-09: 12-3
* 2009:10 14-1
* 2010-11: 13-1
* 2011-12: 12-1
* 2012-13: 10-0