'Cats hope homecoming win is turning point

Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Cassville's River Phelps (23) looks for a lane to run through as teammate Leigh Cox (2) prepares to set a block for Phelps. Phelps, a sophomore, had two rushing touchdowns and returned a kickoff for a score Friday against Mt. Vernon. Chuck Nickle Special to the Cassville Democrat

Young Cat shines on homecoming night

All the glitz and glamour on homecoming night tends to focus on seniors, such as homecoming king and running back Chase Jackson.

On Friday, however, it was a sophomore that stole the show.

Before Friday, sophomore River Phelps had only taken a handful of snaps at reining back. But due to injuries, such as Jackson's, Phelps was thrust into the backfield and made the most of the opportunity.

Along with 2 rushing touchdowns, from 4 yards and 27 yards, Phelps returned a kickoff 75 yards for a score that Head Coach Lance Parnell said was a game changer.

"That was a turning point in the game," he said. "We knew we had to capitalize and score, and there were, I think, three kids that had crucial blocks to spring him."

Phelps said when he took the kickoff at the 25-yard line, he was just looking for a lane.

"I caught it and got outside to the open field, then I cut back and everything just opened up," he said. "That's when I turned the wheels on."

The touchdown awoke a Wildcats team that had been stagnant in the early stages of the game, trading touchdowns with Mt. Vernon in a back-and-forth battle. Parnell said he hopes the win will do for the season what the touchdown return did for the game.

"That was a huge win after coming off the three-game losing streak," he said. "I hate to say any game is a must-win, but that game was for us."

Phelps said he hopes the win will spring the Wildcats (3-4, 3-3) to victory in each of the games left this season, Friday against East Newton, and Oct. 17 against Seneca. The district playoffs begin on Oct. 24.

"I think this win was a turning point for us," he said. "I think we will hit it hard and come out and get these next couple wins."

Phelps sees more action than many other players, as he played Friday on both sides of the ball, racking up 104 yards on 16 carries at running back, and also recording 9 tackles on defense. He also had a more than 50-yard punt return for a touchdown negated because of an illegal block penalty.

Phelps said although it can be tiring at times, he enjoys the roles he has been given.

"When we have those big plays, I get a little tired," he said. "But, the coaches are really good about getting you some rest for a couple plays, then sending you back in to work hard."

Parnell said another boost to team morale came this week when it got three of its injured players back on the gridiron.

"We got a couple kids back, like Cade Pendergraft, Dalton Jett and Colton Dilbeck," he said. "That was a big lift for us.

"This was a huge win. We needed to get off the schneid a little bit, and a win always makes the weekend go better."

The Wildcats return to action on the road this week, taking on East Newton at 7 p.m.

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