'Cats leave Dawgs digging for a bone
Stifling defense central to gameplan
AURORA -- The Cassville football team's win over Aurora Friday may have been by more than three scores, but at the end of the game, it was the Wildcats' defense getting all the credit.
Only allowing Aurora across the 50 yard line once, with less than five minutes in the game, Cassville put on a stifling defensive performance that left the Houn Dawgs digging for a bone.
"I definitely thought we played well," said Lance Parnell, Cassville head coach. "The improvements we made from the Jamboree to Week One were big. The kids got a lot better."
Gabe Kirk, senior quarterback for Cassville, finished the game with one touchdown and 100 yards rushing, but said the stars of the game were on the defensive side of the ball.
"The defense definitely got the players of the game this game," he said. "We played with a lot of heart and it showed what a great defensive coordinator and head coach Parnell is."
Parnell said defense is at the heart of the Wildcats' game plan.
"We pride ourselves on being a disciplined, physical defense," he said.
A standout for Cassville defensively was Brett Nickle, who returned one interception 20 yards for a touchdown in the first half, then picked off a second pass in the fourth quarter.
"[Nickle] is a returning starter and a kid we've moved to corner that's done a great job," Parnell said. "He makes lots of good decisions and that pick-six was a momentum-changer for us."
Continually slowing the Houn Dawgs' run game, holding Aurora to only 58 rushing yards and 79 total yards of offense, Cassville's defense gave its offense the upper hand by keeping a short field all game long.
"It really helps us with the short field because then we don't have to run as far," Kirk said. "That means we can run a lot harder."
The short field allowed the Wildcats to exercise that run game, with senior running back Chase Jackson racking up two touchdowns and 132 yards on 25 carries. Kirk stretched his legs as well, striding for 100 yards on 16 carries.
"Gabe and Chase do a great job for us," Parnell said. "They are both physical kids and play very hard."
Parnell said one thing that makes the duo so strong is their different running styles, which provide the Wildcats with some options in the playbook.
"Chase was a fullback last year, so he's a downhill runner who is not afraid to drop his shoulder on someone," Parnell said. "And Gabe is a guy who likes to be athletic out on the edge."
Kirk said he and Jackson would not be able to do what they do without a strong line of blockers.
"Me and Chase can't do anything without a strong offensive line making holes for us," he said. "With them in front of me, I just like to run and make moves and see what I can do for the offense."
While the positives of Week One far exceeded the negatives, Parnell said the Wildcats' offense has to be more disciplined going forward.
After getting a roughing the kicker call on Aurora's first punt, Cassville had to overcome three more penalties, mostly holding calls, before Jackson punched in the opening score.
"That's something we definitely have to clean up," Parnell said. "We are not going to be able to overcome penalties like that all year."
The Wildcats wrapped up Week One with 327 yards of total offense, compared to Aurora's 79 yards. The Wildcats put up 295 yards rushing and 32 yards passing.
However, Cassville was penalized 10 times in the game, leading to 115 yards in penalties.
Cody Olson led the Wildcats defensively with 8 tackles, and Andrew Shepard picked up two sacks.
Cassville is back in action Friday for its home opener, hosting Mountain Grove at 7 p.m.