Wildcats down Patriots in playoffs, 48-6
A valiant effort by the eighth-seeded East Newton Patriots went for naught on Oct. 25 at Wildcat Stadium as the Cassville Wildcats overcame an early 6-0 deficit and claimed a 48-6 victory over the Patriots in the first round of the Class 3, District 4 playoffs.
Cassville quarterback Gabe Kirk passed for two touchdowns and ran for another. Hayden Prater ran for two Wildcat scores, including an 89-yard burst to ice the game early in the third quarter.
For much of the first quarter though, the Patriots were the story. East Newton earned the dubious honor of playing the top-seeded Wildcats in the opening round of the Class 3 playoffs.
After the Patriots lost 42-0 to Cassville just three weeks ago, the game of interest for most Big 8 fans on Thursday night was the matchup between Seneca and Mt. Vernon.
But East Newton coach Seth Johnson studied film and his playbook to come up with a game plan that would shock Cassville's defense early. Johnson instituted new formations, some slick misdirection plays and a nothing-to-lose attitude.
After converting a fourth and 1 at midfield to keep the game's opening drive alive, the Patriots surprised the Wildcats with a perfectly executed fake punt. Kicker Paxton Hill tricked the Cassville defense into buying into the "can't find the ball" fake, and Ian Plemmons took a direct snap and raced 51 yards between the hashmarks before the Wildcats dragged him down at the 2-yard line.
Plemmons scored two plays later. Although the Wildcats blocked the PAT attempt, East Newton held a shocking 6-0 lead at the 6:45 mark of the opening quarter.
The Wildcats started their first drive at their own 34-yard line following the kickoff, and Kirk directed the offense to the East Newton 11-yard line in just three plays. Brent Thompson ran for 11 and 9 yards on consecutive carries, then Kirk threw a rope to Cole Beagle on the deep post route for a 35-yard advance.
But the Patriots' defense stiffened and held. Bradley Lueckenhoff drilled a 25-yard field goal to salvage the possession, and Cassville was on the board but East Newton still led, 6-3.
The Patriots struggled to a three-and-out following the Stone Phelps touchback. Ironically, on the real punt attempt, the snap did sail over Hill's head. The Patriots covered the ball, but the Wildcats took over on downs just inside the East Newton 5-yard stripe.
Prater hurdled over a mass of bodies to score on first down, and Lueckenhoff's PAT gave Cassville a 10-6 advantage.
The Patriots responded, driving deep into Cassville territory at the start of the second quarter. However, Plemmons fumbled after catching a pass from Rocky Liveoak, and Cody Frana recovered at the Cassville 18-yard line.
The Wildcats drove 82 yards in just over two minutes to extend the lead. Kirk's pass found Phelps on the right hash mark, and he broke a couple of tackles before spinning free into the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown. Lueckenhoff supplied another PAT as the lead grew to 17-6 with 6:20 left in the half.
Penalties stymied the next East Newton possession, and Liveoak executed the rarely seen quick kick on third down from his own 2-yard line.
Starting on the downhill side of midfield, the Wildcats stormed 47 yards in four plays. Kirk's 11-yard touchdown pass to Prater finished the drive. Lueckenhoff made yet another appearance, and the Cassville lead stood at 24-6.
The Wildcats scored once more before halftime. Kirk scrambled 42 yards after scooping up a bad snap and then scored from three yards out with just 14 seconds on the clock. Lueckenhoff drilled another PAT, and Cassville led by 31-6 at half.
The Patriots, as well prepared as any team Cassville had faced all year, were simply out of gas. Even when Darren Rowe blocked a Phelps punt on Cassville's opening possession of the third quarter, East Newton could not capitalize on the gift in the red zone. The Patriots fumbled the ball right back to the Wildcats.
Following the turnover, Prater burst straight up the middle for an 89-yard touchdown romp.
Lueckenhoff toed the PAT for a 38-6 lead then connected on a 34-yard field goal on the next Cassville possession.
Phelps wrestled a pass away from Brandon Abbott for his second interception on the final play of the third quarter, and Chase Jackson completed a 46-yard drive with a 12-yard scoring run off left tackle. Lueckenhoff's PAT created the final score of 48-6 as the running clock came into play.
East Newton rushed for 153 yards in the first half but was limited to only 12 in the second. The Patriots finished the game with 37 carries for 165 yards. Plemmons had seven carries for 69 yards and a touchdown to lead East Newton, with 51 of those coming on the fake punt on the game's first drive.
Liveoak competed three of 13 passes with two interceptions for 22 yards. Hill completed his only pass, a 15-yarder to move the chains on a fake punt in the third quarter.
The Cassville rushing attack rolled up 319 yards on 34 carries. Prater ran for 103 yards on only three carries and scored twice. Kirk had four carries for 69 yards, Thompson had nine carries for 67 yards, and Jackson had nine carries for 53 yards. Josh Brown, Marcus Weatherman and Phelps all contributed to the rushing totals as well.
Kirk completed his first seven passes of the game and finished with seven of 10 accuracy for 115 yards and touchdown throws to Prater and Phelps.
The Wildcats posted total yardage of 435 yards against the East Newton defense.
The Cassville special teams unit continued its excellent play, covering Hill on the bad punt snap, blocking an extra point and accounting for 12 points offensively. Lueckenhoff was perfect on the night, hitting all six PAT attempts and connecting on both of his field goal attempts in pressure situations.
Big 8 teams playoff schedule
Cassville improved to 10-0 with the playoff victory, while East Newton's season ended at 0-10.
The Seneca Indians took advantage of early turnovers to defeat Mt. Vernon, 25-7
The Monett Cubs pulled away late to defeat Aurora, 37-20.
In Class 2 action, defending state champion Lamar rolled Stockton 70-0 and will play Ash Grove. The Carl Junction Bulldogs lost their Class 4 district playoff game to Hillcrest, 35-0.
The Wildcats will host the Seneca Indians tonight (Wednesday). Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.