Wildcats learn life lessons in loss
Parnell: 'Football is an amazing game because it mimics life'
For Lance Parnell, being Cassville's head coach is about more than just getting wins.
Parnell's philosophy showed after Carl Junction came to Wildcat Stadium Friday and spoiled Cassville's homecoming by scoring 38 points in the first quarter en route to a 58-14 win over the home team.
In the team's weekly meeting on the field after the game, Parnell implored his players to take a life lesson from the game.
"Part of the reason I do what I do is to teach young kids about life," he said. "My job is about more than just coaching football, but also being a mentor. Football is an amazing game because it mimics life. There are highs and lows, and how you deal with adversity determines the type of person you are."
Parnell admitted even though the game was ugly, and he told his players at halftime he will never discuss the first quarter ever again, he was proud of his players for not quitting after falling in the sinkhole.
"These young men didn't quit or tuck their tails, and they played very well in the third quarter," he said. "My hat goes off to those 17 seniors in showing the leadership they did."
Senior Zane Everett said the post-game speech could not be more true.
"Coach said never to give up, and if life brings you down, you have to come back up," he said. "We held Carl Junction to only two scores in the second half, and when we talked in the locker room at halftime, we said, 'Who cares about the first half. Let's play the second half like it's 0-0 and take some confidence into next week.'"
Despite the first-quarter hole, Cassville was able to put together some solid drives, one of which went for 13 plays, in the second quarter, and another in the third quarter that lasted 10 minutes.
"If you can put together a 13-play drive against Carl Junction's defense, you're doing something right," Parnell said. "We showed some signs of life that we can build on for the rest of the season."
One sign of life, and what gave Cassville some momentum before halftime, was River Phelps' 90-yard, highlight reel kickoff return for a touchdown.
"That was the spark," Parnell said. "We tried to find the positives after getting out of our game plan early. And when we got back in, we got some runs going and the receivers did a great job catching the football."
Parnell said one of the goals for his Wildcats is to finish those long drives with scores, as neither the 13-play drive, nor the 10-minute drive, produced points.
"We've got to finish those long drives, and we'll continue to move the football and find a way to punch it in," he said.
Cassville also had three players -- Leigh Cox, River Phelps and Stephen Hunter -- who played nearly every snap on both sides of the ball.
"I can't brag on Leigh enough," he said. "He is a warrior who competes on every snap. River and Stephen were questionable coming in after being dinged up against Monett, but they played a lot of snaps and hardly left the field. River came out on defense for a break, but it wasn't long before he wanted back in there."
Taking as many positives as they can into Friday's road game against Mt. Vernon, Everett said if there's one thing the Wildcats still need to work on, it's tackling.
"Carl Junction had some speed, and we need to not arm tackle, but run through them and hit them hard," he said. "But we were still able to put that first half away and keep on going."
The Wildcats (2-4, 2-3) face Mt. Vernon at 7 p.m. on Friday.