Bob Mitchell: Football coming home to Cassville
Football will be in the air in Cassville Friday night, as the Wildcats play their home opener.
It will be a special recognition night for those who wore the Black and Gold 46-50 years ago as they will be recognized in pre-game activities and receive a replica football jersey with their old number on it. They will also be recognized in the program with the position played indicated.
Opposition for the home opener will be the Reeds Spring Wolves, who defeated the Wildcats in district play last year. The Wolves are expected to field a strong team again this year. Their program has been enhanced over the past few years, due to the growth of the district -- much of which can be attributed to what is happening in the Branson area.
More home games
Wildcat fans will be treated to an additional home game from the past two seasons, with the Wildcats hosting five teams in their regular season schedule. How they fare in district play will dictate whether playoff games are played in Cassville.
The season is off to an early start -- mid-August instead of the traditional post-Labor Day opening of past years. Seems like Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) officials in Columbia have decided that they needed to tell schools they needed to make the first game date change.
How this works, more importantly to the players, is yet to be determined. It would appear this action will put games potentially in hot-weather conditions, when most players and coaches would prefer cooler temperatures.
For the opener
The football jerseys that are going to former players should be appreciated. The program was instituted a couple of years ago by Head Coach Lance Parnell. There were three from our year, the 1946 season, but there couldn't be any jersey numbers from that year since there wasn't such a thing. That was 69 years ago, with situations improving considerably over past years -- including the Wildcats playing on two different fields since that era.
In one instance back in the beginning, an unscheduled practice game with Aurora, which were not in our conference in those early days, meant that a school bus could not be used for transportation. Cassville businessmen provided private automobiles to make the trip to Lawrence County. The same procedure was required two years later for a non-scheduled scrimmage with Monett.
That was the beginning of modern-day football after a recess for World War II.
There wasn't money in the program to provide equipment that included game jerseys with numbers and such, so the team was issued one white jersey, which we practiced in each day and took home Thursday for washing and ready for Friday night contests. There were actually some players in those years who relied on girlfriends to use their washing machines for the cleaning process.
Early on, during practice sessions, there was a chance that players could be dumped in a cow pie that had been missed during a field cleaning. These possibilities, while most being dry, came from an earlier rodeo that had been held on the field.
Coach Parnell is excited about this year's squad, and some younger players who will gain experience. Included on the roster are 19 senior letter winners, 11 juniors and even six sophomores who saw considerable playing time last year. Returners include nine backs -- including a couple of tailbacks -- and some sizable linemen who will bolster the squad in offense and defense.
Parnell said the squad had a good camp. An important factor in this year's Wildcat numbers will be the leadership that has been an important part in building the 2016 squad. He pointed to the more senior squad members giving of their efforts to provide experience to younger players.
Wildcat mania exists
Cassville's football Wildcats are experiencing renewed interest these years with memories of the back-to-back Missouri state championship teams that resulted in a pair of home bleacher expansions after those seasons. With the additional seating, early arrivals at the stadium secure the best seats.
School administrators in recent years have prohibited the saving of seats by placing blankets along the aluminum seats that had been the practice in years past.
So, grab the Black and Gold for this Friday night and be among those who welcome Coach Parnell and his squad as they exit the fieldhouse at the southeast corner of Wildcat Stadium.
Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat.