Wildcats football seeking road win
Cassville faces No. 5-ranked team in the state Friday
Maybe Cassville Football Coach Lance Parnell is turning over a new leaf in his coaching strategy, or maybe he knows that his Wildcats have a chance to be special this season.
With the Wildcats trailing 20-19 and three minutes remaining in the game, Parnell, who is generally thought of as a conservative coach, bucked his stereotype and opted to go for the 2-point, conversion which proved to be the deciding factor in the Wildcats' 21-20 season-opening win over Aurora.
"I had faith in my kids that they could execute the play," Parnell said. "We had driven deep into Aurora territory twice in the fourth quarter, and I took a calculated risk that we would be successful.
"I knew that I was either going to look like an idiot or genius on that play call, but I felt it was the right decision at that time."
Parnell's trust is not easy to come by, yet his players have slowly earned the respect and confidence of a coach who prides himself in creating responsible men that just happen to play football.
As Parnell assessed Week 1, he saw several things that were impressive.
"We played extremely well for three quarters," Parnell said. "We came out flat in the third period, and Aurora took it to us. Our kids gave up 20 straight points and could have thrown in the towel. I think our fourth quarter performance showed the coaches and the fans that we have young men who are going to fight until the end of the games."
Senior Devin Messbarger drew high praise from his coach for stepping up when called upon.
"Devin has been a program guy for four years," Parnell said. "He went into our secondary in the second quarter to fill in and we never took him out. Devin made three tackles I can think of that, if missed, change the outcome of the game, not to mention the interception he had to end Aurora's final drive. He was ready when his time came."
This week, the hill the Wildcats will begin climbing gets a little steeper, as they travel to Mountain Grove for the first of three road games.
The Panthers come into the contest ranked No. 5 in the latest state media poll. Ironically, it is the same ranking they had when they strolled into Wildcat Stadium last year and walked out with a 30-19 victory, a game Parnell remembers well.
"They took the game away from us in the second half," he said. "They beat us because they became the more physical team. They beat us at our own game."
This season, the Panthers return the nucleus of the team that tripped the Wildcats a year ago.
"We talk every week about the line being the difference in the game," Parnell said. "I tell you, the line will be the difference on Friday. Whoever is more physical wins the game. We can't lose up front, it is almost like we are playing a mirror of ourselves."
A win would go a long ways to establishing Cassville as a power in southwest Missouri and could catapult them back into the state rankings.
Keys for the Wildcats:
* Dig in. Cassville's line gave Aurora fits. The Wildcats would love to turn Mountain Grove into a passing team.
* Score first. Anytime a team can puts points on the board and make the opponent play from behind, it has an advantage.
* Run the clock. With both teams ground-oriented, look for possessions to be fewer in number. Control the clock and win the game.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.