Seneca rallies past Cassville, 20-13

Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Cassville's Brent Thompson tries to break the grasp of a Seneca tackler during the Wildcats' district game with the Indians. Chuck Nickle Photography

The Seneca Indians scored on a desperation final drive to beat Cassville, 20-13, in Class 3 district semifinal action at Missouri Southern State University's Fred G. Hughes Stadium on Wednesday, Nov. 6.

This classic battle between the two Big 8 Conference teams saw four lead changes on a night filled with big plays for both teams.

Seneca's Braxton Graham rushed for 184 yards, and scored two touchdowns to lead the Indians.

The Seneca defense limited the Wildcats to just two scores in the game, despite two early turnovers by the Indians.

Hayden Prater led Cassville with 137 yards rushing and a touchdown.

The game was moved from to MSSU due to poor field conditions at Seneca. While not a common practice, moving playoff games suddenly became the norm last week with heavy rains drenching all of southwest Missouri.

The Seneca band played a spirited rendition of the Star Spangled Banner with the north end zone flag still at half staff in remembrance of Missouri Southern assistant coach Derek Moore, who died tragically last week.

The Wildcats won the coin toss and deferred, and the Indians elected to defend the north goal.

Cassville's Bradley Lueckenhoff toed a short, high kick that the Indians mishandled and the Wildcats came up with the ball at the Seneca 33-yard line. But the Seneca defense held the Wildcats on downs with no damage suffered from the turnover.

Five plays later, Seneca's Payton Rawlins found Dylan Snow open with a third-down completion. Snow fumbled in the secondary and the Wildcats recovered again, this time at their own 45-yard line.

Cassville drove to the red zone, but Lueckenhoff was wide right with a 36-yard field goal attempt as the game remained scoreless.

The high-powered Seneca offense finally came to life, driving 80 yards in 10 plays to take a 6-0 lead in the final minute of the first quarter. Graham broke off right tackle and raced 31 yards for the score. Rawlins' PAT attempt was blocked by Prater.

Neither team could mount a drive in the second quarter, but Cassville gained the advantage in field position with Lueckenhoff's strong punting performance.

The Cassville senior punted inside the Seneca 10-yard line twice in the quarter, limiting the Indians' offensive options so near their own goal line.

With just 44 seconds left before halftime, Rawlins' punt was partially blocked and the Wildcats took over at the Seneca 37-yard line.

A first-down run by Brent Thompson gained only two yards. Precious seconds ticked away as Gabe Kirk dropped back and heaved a pass downfield. Marcus Weatherman, fighting double coverage on the play, came down with the ball at the one-foot line with only eight seconds on the clock.

The Wildcats used their final timeout and then Prater bulled into the end zone from the wishbone formation. Lueckenhoff's kick split the sticks, and Cassville claimed a 7-6 halftime lead.

The Wildcats received the second-half kickoff but could make no dent in the Indians' defense. Lueckenhoff punted away to the Seneca 15-yard line.

On Seneca's first offensive play of the third quarter, Graham broke off left tackle, cut to the sideline and sprinted toward paydirt. Cassville's Jordan Fisher ran Graham down----no small feat in itself----and forced him out of bounds after a 79-yard gain.

Rawlins scrambled for a score two plays later and the Indians regained the lead, 12-7. The two-point conversion attempt failed.

The Wildcats fumbled deep in their own territory but Seneca could not capitalize. Likewise, Cassville wasted a long drive late in the quarter when Kirk was intercepted in the end zone.

The Wildcats finally put together a drive on their first possession of the fourth quarter.

The white-shirted 'Cats drove 60-yards in just seven plays, with both Thompson and Prater breaking loose for 22-yard runs. Kirk covered the final few yards on a quarterback draw as Cassville moved back in front, 13-12.

The Indians could not sustain the next drive and punted back to the Wildcats with just 6:50 to play.

Three plays set up a fourth and two-inches situation at the Cassville 36-yard line.

Coach Lance Parnell, not wanting to give up the ball, sent out the short-yardage offense and Prater responded with a tough one-yard run to move the chains. But three more plays netted only 8 yards and the Wildcats punted away on fourth and 2.

The Indians took over at their own 28-yard line with 3:19 to play.

Although Rawlins scrambled often to keep the drive alive, every Seneca play on the drive was a designed pass play. The clock moved under 2:00 as the Indians faced a fourth and 8 at their own 46-yard line.

Long-time Cassville fans remember the classic 2009 playoff game at Rogersville, when Trevor Tanner threw long for Travis Northern on a critical fourth down play.

The Rogersville secondary panicked and wiped Northern out at the goal line with the ball still in the air. The resulting first down gave the Cassville offense new life, and the drive ended with the winning touchdown in the 21-20 thriller.

Rawlins threw deep over the middle. Both receiver and defensive backs went down in a heap. The flags came out immediately. This time, the penalty weighed against the Wildcats, and Seneca had a first down at the Cassville 39-yard line.

Five plays later, Rawlins found Graham open in the left flat for a 5-yard touchdown reception. Rawlins ran the ball in himself for the two-point conversion and a 20-13 lead.

The Wildcats had 1:20 on the clock to work with, but turned the ball over on four straight incompletions. The Indians ran out the clock and ran off the field with the victory.

Big 8 roundup

The 11th week of the season saw the Big 8 shining brightly. Five conference teams played on Wednesday night, with the only loser coming out of the game matching two Big 8 opponents.

Seneca defeated Cassville, 20-13, to advance to the district championship game. The Indians will host Aurora, an upset winner over top-seeded Reeds Spring, 29-20.

In Class 2 action, the Lamar Tigers dismantled Warsaw, 84-6.

In Class 4 action, Carl Junction pulled off another miracle comeback to defeat Hillcrest in the closing seconds, 29-28.

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