Wildcats clinch home field with victory
The Cassville Wildcats football team completed their comeback run after a 1-4 start to the season, posting a 35-14 home win over Mt. Vernon with their fourth consecutive victory on Friday. The win clinched a home field advantage as Cassville moves into district action.
The Wildcats won with a mind-numbing running attack that chewed up yards and clock throughout the contest.
Cassville's defense was dominant, allowing only a short-field score in the first half following a turnover and a desperate late-game drive by the Mountaineers.
The Cassville offense opened the game with an 11-play, 65-yard drive to take a 7-0 lead at the 7:43 mark of the opening quarter.
After the battering ram running attack set up a third and 6 situation at the Mt. Vernon 10-yard line, Gabe Kirk rolled right and delivered a scoring strike to Marcus Weatherman.
The Wildcats held the Mountaineers to an immediate three-and-out following Bradley Lueckenhoff's kickoff. Cassville regained possession at their own 36-yard line when Alex Hausman's punt took a backwards bounce.
Kirk authored another long scoring drive, with the Wildcats covering the 65 yards in a dozen snaps.
Brett Thompson dove over the line from the wishbone set in the final minute of the quarter as Cassville opened a 14-0 lead.
Mt. Vernon moved the chains for the first time as the second quarter began, but Hausman had to punt from midfield on fourth and Butterfield situation.
On the Wildcats next drive, a bad snap and the ensuing loose ball cost Cassville the ball. The Mountaineers recovered at their own 45-yard line.
Hausman found speedy wideout Daniel Redfearn open on second-and-17, and he dashed 44 yards to the Cassville 18-yard line.
On the sixth snap in the red zone, Payton Oehlschlager gathered in a Hausman 9-yard pass for a touchdown. Joel Barber's PAT cut the Cassville lead to 14-7, and that display lingered on the scoreboard as the teams adjourned for halftime.
Lueckenhoff boomed a touchback to open the third quarter, pinning the Mountaineers 80 yards away. Trailing by a single score, Mt. Vernon had a golden opportunity with the first possession of the second half. But the Cassville defense was the team that responded best to the situation.
The Mountaineers gained 10 yards on the first play, but then had to punt on fourth-and-long after being forced into a passing situation.
For the third time in the contest, the Wildcats drove over 60 yards for a score. This 10-play drive covered 66 yards, with every yard gained on the ground.
Brett Thompson wore down the Mt. Vernon defense with his speed and agility, finally scoring on a sweep from six yards out. Cassville regained a two-score advantage at 21-7 with 6:32 left in the third quarter.
Lueckenhoff drilled another touchback, and then Jordan Adams came up with a tip-drill interception of Hausman on Mt. Vernon's opening play of the drive.
Seven plays later, Thompson scored again to finish a 33-yard drive as Cassville opened a 28-7 lead with 3:23 left in the quarter.
Another Mt. Vernon three-and-out punt gave the Wildcats the ball at their own 43-yard line.
The 'Cats put together another lengthy scoring drive that reached well into the fourth quarter.
This 57-yard march was capped with Thompson roaring into the end zone from 8 yards out to establish a 35-7 margin.
The Mountaineers responded with a 68-yard drive, doing most of the damage through Ty Burton's spectacular 45-yard run to the Cassville 12-yard line.
Burton broke off left tackle, reversed field and found an open lane on the right sideline as he raced deep into Cassville territory. Hausman drilled a slant pass to Redfearn two plays later to cut the lead to 35-14.
The Mountaineers mounted a late drive that reached the Cassville 9-yard line, but Hausman was sacked by Colton Dilbeck on the next play. Two incomplete passes ended the threat with just ten seconds remaining, and Kirk genuflected once to end the contest.
The Wildcats improved to 5-4 on the season with the win, 4-3 in the Big 8. Cassville claimed the third seed in the Class 3 District 4 Playoffs and will host sixth-seeded Hollister on Thursday night at Wildcat Field. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
While Cassville, Lamar, and Seneca football teams celebrated Big 8 victories on the final Friday of the regular season, it was Carl Junction that earned the conference championship with a 49-6 drubbing of Monett.
The rise of the Bulldogs from the perennial middle ranks to the top is the biggest story in the Big 8 this year.