Wildcat football family rejoices in gridiron victory
Big senior night win gives Cassville confidence
The Cassville football team's season has been a roller coaster this year, full of highs and lows that strengthen the glue that holds the team together -- family.
The word "family" was the last thing the 3-5 team said together on the field Friday after a 54-7, senior night rout of East Newton in what may be the last game played in Wildcat Stadium this year.
After Coach Lance Parnell's postgame speech, the team gathered with their helmets held high, and led by senior Dylan Klewer, did their weekly call and response chant: "Who are we? Cassville. Who are we? Cassville. What are we? Wildcats. What are we? Wildcats. We will? Win. We will? Win."
Klewer always is sure to add one more call and response to the end of the chant -- "We are? Family."
"Our main goal is to play together because we can't win with just one person," Klewer said. "We usually rotate that cheer between the captains, and it [was] an awesome experience to get to do it [Friday], and I always make sure we say 'family' at the end."
Parnell said the family concept is part of what makes the game the best in the world.
"Football is full of highs and lows, and it's a grind," he said. "We are a family because we spend so much time together, from summer conditioning and camps to two-a-days and throughout the season.
"I spend more time with these kids than my own. When you sweat, bleed, hurt and rejoice together with someone, that makes you family, and those guys know they can't each do it on their own."
Friday's pounding of the Patriots was a family affair, as the Wildcats started quick and never looked back. By the game's end, every player in a Wildcat jersey saw time on the field, including the entire freshman offense playing downs together.
"That group of freshmen is a group we are very excited about," Parnell said. "We wanted to put them together as a unit out there and see what happened.
"I wanted to get all the kids in because it's a great experience and it's good for them to come in and have success. I just hope I didn't forget anyone."
Klewer said Cassville was ready to play from the opening kickoff.
"Our opening drive was a big statement, and that set the tone for the rest of the game," Klewer said. "This win gives us pretty great confidence going forward. We have some big teams coming up and we have to play as a family."
Parnell said after a heartbreaking loss to Mt. Vernon on Oct. 2, he watched his team each day in practice as they battled back to prepare for the East Newton contest.
"We took one on the chin [in Mt. Vernon], and we had a talk on Tuesday and had a great day of practice on Thursday, and we came out [Friday] and played well from the very first snap," he said. "I saw the kids playing with more zest for the game of football, and the highlight is that we talked well.
"The kids continue to work, and they squared up, ran their feet and finished tackles."
Parnell said the win will be a big pickup for Cassville heading to Seneca for the final regular-season contest.
"We know where we are at, and we know we have got to win to move forward," he said. "Seneca has been a traditional rival for Cassville, so there's a lot on the line."
The Wildcats finished Friday's contest with 341 yards of total offense, compared to East Newton's 123.
Junior River Phelps led the team with five scores, getting four on the ground and returning the opening kickoff of the second half 78 yards to find paydirt.
He finished the game with 123 yards rushing on 11 attempts, and including extra-point attempts, accounted for 35 of Cassville's 54 points.
Freshman quarterback Shannon Haney started the contest, and he earned his first passing touchdown when he connected with senior Allen Lambel for a 71-yard score.
Senior Leigh Cox finished the contest with 59 rushing yards on nine attempts and one score. Freshman Anthony Tolbert also got in on the scoring, as he rushed for 38 yards on two carries and one touchdown.
Garrett Knight was called on to return punts for Cassville, and he returned three punts for 49 total yards, a 16.3-yard average.
Parnell credited his returns and the whole special teams group for setting up Cassville's early scores.