Big 'Cats get love one last time
Seniors Parnell's highlight of season
Down 47-20 and pinned deep in their own territory, the Wildcats' last play from scrimmage in 2014 was a Gabe Kirk keeper up the middle.
The play ran out the clock on the Wildcats' third straight district semifinal loss, and that's a hump Head Coach Lance Parnell is anxious to overcome.
"We have got to get over this road block of the district semifinals," he said. "This is the first year in a long time we won't have any Cassville football in November."
Parnell said the loss to Monett, the Wildcats' in-county rival, was especially difficult because of the 16-senior group whose high school careers came to an end.
"I might have shed a few tears on the sideline after the game with my seniors," he said. "I love those guys. They showed up to work each day and never complained. They were a great group to coach."
Senior Jordan Fisher said the Wildcats lacked execution Friday, especially in the second half, but the loss takes nothing away from the season the Wildcats had.
"We got to band together as brothers and overcame a lot of adversity," he said. "We become one as a family no matter what happened."
The Wildcats' season was marred by injuries, mostly to upperclassman. Cassville even had to fall back another option Friday when River Phelps was not able to play because of a bout of pneumonia.
One of the seniors injured who made a returned was Dalton Jett, who even though he missed six games, finished up the season with 25 total tackles, eight of which were for a loss.
"The takeaway from this season is that we always worked had and we never gave up," he said. "We've always said, 'next man up,' [when injuries come pure way], and everyone has to step up sometime."
Jett said he was proud to be able to finish the season on the field.
"The highlight of the season for me was when I got to come back and play in that first Mt. Vernon game," he said. "I'm proud to have finished on the field, but I wish I had got to play the whole season."
Phelps said he was happy when the Wildcats began stringing together some wins.
"The highlight of the season for me was after we broke that losing streak and got a few wins in a row," he said. "I'll remember this year for the rest of my life. I'll remember what we overcame as brothers and as family."
Parnell said the "next man up" mantra served the Wildcats well in such a tumultuous season.
"We've always said, 'next man up,' and the guys only say, 'Alright coach, we are ready to go,'" Parnell said. "They never make excuses. They just keep playing, and they've worked their tail ends off.
"The highlight for me would be this group of seniors. They are a great group with great work ethic, great personalities, and a great appreciation for hard work and dedication over the past four years."
Kirk finished the season with 10 touchdowns and 636 rushing yards on 138 attempts, 4.9 yards per carry and 57.8 yards per game. Through the air, Kirk connected on 41 of his 104 passes for 622 passing yards and four touchdowns. He also threw four interceptions.
Cassville's leading rusher was a surprise in sophomore River Phelps, who scored 11 touchdowns and netted 720 yards on 93 attempts, averaging 7.7 yards per carry and 72 yards per game.
The Wildcats' lead receiver was senior Cade Pendergraft, who scored three touchdowns and had 304 yards on 10 catches, an average of 30.4 per catch and 38 yards per game.
Phelps and junior Leigh Cox each returned one kickoff for a touchdown, and Cox lead as a returner with 228 yards on eight attempts, an average of 28.5 yards per return.
Defensively, Cox led in turnovers with three fumbles recovered and two interceptions, and Brett Nickle pulled in five interceptions.
Cassville's leading tacklers was Zane Everett, who posted 61 total tackles with six for a loss. Cox tallied 47 tackles, with two for a loss.