Wildcats uneven at jamboree

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

"There was good, there was bad and there was ugly, " Lance Parnell told his Cassville Wildcats after their jamboree performance at JFK Stadium in Springfield on Friday, Aug. 23.

Parnell's spaghetti western reference was accurate, if not original.

Cassville's vaunted defense turned in the expected highlight reel plays but also surrendered touchdowns to Parkview and Neosho. The Wildcat offense scored against all three jamboree opponents, but was often out of sync.

Parnell didn't show much on offense, with quarterbacks Gabe Kirk and Leigh Cox directing a bland variety of running plays. If Branson sent a scout to the scrimmage, he wasted his gas stipend.

The Wildcats ran the majority of their plays from a split back set, with some shotgun formation mixed in.

In short yardage, the 'Cats showed the I-formation. But there were no plays run from the wishbone, no innovative offensive formations and Cassville's few passing plays unveiled nothing new for defensive strategists.

Cassville and Willard squared off in the first jamboree session, with the Wildcats starting on defense.

The Tigers caught Cassville's four-three defense flatfooted early, moving to the 11-yard line with a mix of passes and sweeps.

A procedure penalty and an incompletion on third down cost Willard a scoring opportunity. Instead of trying to score on fourth-and-goal, the Tigers elected to start a new set of downs at the Cassville 40-yard line.

After gaining 38 yards on their initial possession, the Tigers could not gain yardage in their final five plays against the Wildcats. The only positive play of the five was a swing pass for one yard.

Chase Jackson upended the Willard tailback for a loss and then Andrew Shepherd broke through for a sack on Willard's final offensive snap of the session.

Cassville's offense opened with two straight carries by senior Brent Thompson. He was stopped for no gain on first down, but then fought for 10 hard-earned yards to the Willard 30-yard line on the following play to move the chains.

Gabe Kirk overthrew Bradley Lueckenhoff on first down, followed by a 4-yard gain off right tackle by Hayden Prater. Thompson then brought the crowd alive with a spinning, breakaway 25-yard touchdown run.

Cassville's remaining snaps against Willard were not pretty. A nice completion from Kirk to Marcus Weatherman was negated by an offensive pass interference penalty and the Wildcats failed to move the chains after Thompson's scoring run.

Parnell's troops managed a total of 52 yards against the Willard defense.

The Wildcats faced the host Parkview Vikings in the second session of the jamboree format. The Vikings were led again this year by quarterback Anthony Gilliland, a 6'7" senior.

Gilliland, a pure passer who elicits memories of Ryan Mallett, struggled against Cassville's defense.

On Parkview's fifth snap against the Wildcats, Gilliland threw into the teeth of the Wildcats zone and saw Prater come away with the interception on a textbook tip drill in the defensive secondary.

Nicholas Cole relieved Gilliland for Parkview's second set of downs. The sophomore marched the Vikings to the Cassville 13-yard line, and then scored on a quarterback keeper on the final snap of the session for the Vikings.

Cassville's offensive series against Parkview was marred by a pair of fumbles.

On first down at the 22-yard line, Kirk froze the defense with a stellar ball fake, and then sprinted off right tackle to the 5-yard line. His fake handoff was so convincing that one of the officials blew the play dead, convinced that Thompson had the ball beneath a pile of Vikings.

The Wildcats shrugged off the premature whistling, and Thompson barreled into the end zone from the 1-yard line to end Cassville's offensive session against Parkview.

The Neosho Wildcats took the field as Cassville's final opponent of the jamboree.

Neosho stormed down the field and scored in eight plays, sparked by a pair of 9-yard runs. And a 17-yard catch and run to set up first and goal.

Cassville's defense made adjustments and shut down Neosho on the following drive.

Another fumble sunk Cassville's first foray against the Neosho defense. But then Kirk drove the Wildcats down the field. A perfectly thrown bomb into the end zone went for naught, but then Prater rumbled off tackle for 16 yards to set up first and 10 at the Neosho 13-yard line.

On the very next play, Kirk dumped a pass to Prater in the left flat and he charged through the Neosho secondary and into the end zone.

For the night, Prater led the Wildcats with 49 yards on 8 carries, and he scored on the 13-yard pitch and catch from Kirk. Thompson amassed 40 rushing yards on 7 carries, and scored twice.

Kirk completed only 3 of 9 passes statistically, but had one completion wiped out by an offensive interference penalty and also had a sure touchdown dropped at the goal line.

The jamboree format kept some of Cassville's best talent off the field.

There are no kicking/special teams plays at the jamborees, so the Wildcats could not showcase their veteran placekicker Bradley Lueckenhoff or promising kickoff specialist Paofue Vang.

Cassville opens the 2013 football season Friday night at Branson. Kickoff is set for 7 PM.

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