Underclassmen stepping up
Team dealing with injuries, relying on youngsters to shine
With injuries plaguing the Cassville football team's upperclassmen, some of the Wildcats' younger players are seeing more playing time, and Head Coach Lance Parnell is seeing the benefits.
Missing seniors Cody Olsen, Chase Jackson, Cade Pendergraft and Justin Dunivant during Friday's 49-7 loss to Carl Junction, the Wildcats saw a lot more action from underclassmen, such as sophomores Gilbert Medina and River Phelps, and juniors Dylan Klewer, Matt Popanz and Hunter Madison.
"Gilbert has been playing a lot of linebacker for us, and River has been playing lots of running back and safety," Parnell said. "They are all getting some valuable experience."
Medina finished Friday's game with two tackles and one tackle assist, with one tackle for a loss. Phelps finished Friday's contest with 41 rushing yards on 14 attempts, one reception on four targets, and the lone touchdown of the game, a 1-yard run set up by a Leigh Cox interception and a 22-yard Gabe Kirk run to the goal line. Phelps also recorded six tackles on defense.
"These guys are all playing more snaps, so they will be in better shape," Parnell said.
Parnell said with the absence of some senior leadership on the field, the Wildcats have seen some juniors step into those roles.
"Defensively, [junior] Zane Everett did a great job stepping up into a leadership role, and he did a very good job communicating with his teammates," Parnell said.
Everett finished the Carl Junction game with five tackles.
Parnell said even though more underclassmen are getting on the gridiron, nothing about the Wildcats' approach has changed.
"We still approach things the same way because the kids have been in the program and they know what to expect," he said. "So, we come at them the same way."
Parnell said he is also no stranger to struggling with injuries, and such things happen in the game of football.
"Injuries are always part of football and we have to have those younger kids step up and fill those roles," he said. "Then, we see them grow from that point forward."
On the season, Phelps has amassed 78 yards on 24 carries with a touchdown. Defensively, he has 23 tackles and six assisted tackles.
Medina has three tackles and two assisted tackles this season, and he has reeled in three catches for 41 yards offensively.
Other underclassmen contributing defensively include Klewer, 10 tackles and three assisted tackles, three of which were for losses; Popanz, nine tackles and one assisted, with one tackle for a loss; Madison, three tackles and a sack (Madison has one of three sacks all season, with Andrew Shepard tallying the other two); and Everett, 32 tackles with five assisted tackles and two tackles for a loss.
The Wildcats return to action again on Friday, hosting Mt. Vernon for homecoming night. Kickoff is 7 p.m.