Wildcats brace for Tiger attack

Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Shannon Haney looks for an open target during jamboree action on Friday at Springfield Central. Haney and the Wildcats invade Lamar to open the regular season this Friday. Kyle Troutman/editor@cassville-democrat.com

Huge test awaits for young Cassville squad

It only seems like yesterday that Lance Parnell, Cassville football coach, spoke to his team about offseason goals.

Part of that conversation between the coach and his team centered around the unit becoming stronger physically and mentally in order to achieve lofty goals.

Blake Brophy (No. 87) and River Phelps converge to make a stop for the Wildcats at their jamboree. Kyle Troutman/editor@cassville-democrat.com

Now, nearly nine months later, the Wildcats and their coach prepare for a Friday night Week One opener at Lamar.

"Lamar is Lamar," Parnell said about the challenge that awaits his team. "For the last five years, they have brought home a state title. We know that we are going to have to play them. It might as well be in the first week."

Cassville is fresh off a jamboree performance that showed the team has made strides, but still has a way to go to be where they want.

"I thought we ran and threw the ball well at times," Parnell said. "Our defense pursued better than at this time last year, but we also saw that the speed of the game is much faster than some of our players thought. We showed our youth and inexperience."

Last season, a banged up Wildcats squad fell to Lamar, 38-6. This year, they still have their hands full with a Tigers squad that returns 18 full-time starters from a 15-0 team.

"I believe in our kids and their ability to compete," Parnell said. "This game will be a good test for our linebackers. They will be key in reading the spinner option from Lamar."

Parnell has had success against the Tigers. Since the 2010 season, Lamar has lost a total of eight conference games. Three to Cassville, two each to Carl Junction and Seneca and one to Aurora.

The key for Cassville on Friday will be the play of the offensive and defensive lines and the Cassville linebackers.

"I think some of our young guys got caught thinking about what they needed to do on the field on Friday," Parnell said. "We want them to just react to plays. Toward the end of the jamboree, I think we saw some of the development."

Lamar is guided by one key principle -- fear.

It was not that long ago that Big 8 teams could pencil in a victory when they played the Tigers. In fact, Scott Bailey's first year at Lamar culminated in an 0-10 record.

"That season made me question if I was a good coach or not," Bailey said. "To this day, we push ourselves out of the fear that we might return to a team that would go 0-10."

Bailey said Parnell is stockpiling talent in Cassville and that the film he has watched is showing that the future is bright.

"The thing about a Lance Parnell-coached team is that they are going to hit you and hit you hard," Bailey said. "Lance played a lot of sophomores on Friday. Everyone of them looked like a football player should. As an opposing coach, you notice those things."

Bailey felt that his offensive line showed the biggest growth at the jamboree.

"It's hard to get a true read just watching 12 plays," Bailey said. "But, if we are going to win this season, it will have to start with those guys."

Keys to the game

* Strong start

Cassville cannot afford to fall behind early and be forced to play catch up. Look for the Wildcats to try to bleed the clock with sustained drives. Scoring first would go a long way to settling the nerves of the Wildcats squad.

* Defense, Defense, Defense

There's nothing like facing the top-rushing offense in Class 2 for the last five seasons to test your young squad. Cassville's linebackers are the biggest key. If they cannot fill the gaps and make tackles, the hair will get a little more white on Parnell's head.

* Just play ball

The atmosphere will undoubtedly be electric on Friday. The Wildcats need to block out all distraction and just focus on playing ball.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

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