Former coach Ron Cole recalls his days at Cassville

Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Former Cassville Coach Ron Cole, right, talks to Rick Cooper, No. 22, Phil Hutchens, No. 74, and Gary Henderson, behind Cooper, during Alumni Night at the Cassville home opener against Reeds Spring. Chuck Nickle/Special to the Cassville Democrat

Cole impressed with Wildcats' play against Reeds Spring

A 36-year coaching veteran who cut his teeth at Cassville, Ron Cole was in attendance on Friday at the Reeds Spring football game, sharing his memories and watching the Wildcats defeat the Wolves.

A Fayetteville, Ark., native and 1968 graduate of Arkansas Tech in Russellville, Ark., Cole originally wanted to stay in Arkansas but took an assistant coaching job in Cassville right after graduating college.

"Jobs in the late '60s were pretty hard to find," he said. "Most of the coaching jobs were filled up, and no one was moving. I'm a country guy who doesn't like big towns or a lot of people, so I was glad to come to Cassville and have a job.

"I also really liked the community. It's a great place where you can hunt and fish."

A year after being an assistant at Cassville, the 24-year-old Cole was promoted to head coach and was the first to step into the new Wildcat Stadium when it was dedicated in 1970.

"A lot of things have changed since then," he said. "The field and the practice field are in the same place, but everything else is different. They have done a good job here with the new high school and the facilities. I'm really impressed with what the community has done with the schools.'

Cole said during his tenure, his Wildcats improved annually in a tough, Big 10 conference full of Missouri prep powerhouses. From 1960-1968, Cassville's record was a combined 28-55-5.

Cole's first year as assistant in 1968 was tough for the program, as the team struggled to maintain numbers due to extenuating circumstances in the country at the time.

"Cassville hadn't won very many games," he said. "So, we started trying to improve the program. The main thing was we played against teams like Nevada, Carthage and Neosho, and they were twice as big as us.

"We also had teams like Monett and Aurora. We started in the basement, and by the time I had finished at Cassville, we had beaten most of those teams at the top of the conference."

In Cole's five seasons as head coach, the Wildcats amassed a record of 25-25-1, starting at 2-8 and finishing at 7-3. In his final season, Cassville blanked Monett and Aurora in back-to-back weeks by 20-0 scorelines, and defeated Webb City and Carl Junction, 20-8 and 22-6, respectively.

Cole said even though he was head coach, it was the players there on Alumni Night Friday, like linebacker Hal Smith, Honorable Mention All-State, and center David Shelley, Honorable Mention All-State, that deserve credit.

"They were the ones who really started getting wins back to the program," he said. "A lot of the guys out there were former all-conference, all-district and all-state."

Cole's work eventually led him to the staff of Jefferson City High School, assisting under Hall of Fame coach Pete Adkins. During his time as defensive coordinator and later head coach, Cole's teams won 10 state titles -- the most of any school in Missouri history. Many of his former players went on to have high profile college careers, and some went on to play in the NFL.

Cole retired in 2002 to spend time on his cattle farm, but was coaxed back in 2011 to being a defensive coordinator at Jefferson City for five more seasons. Cole started in Wildcat Stadium, later going on to coach in Arrowhead Stadium, Busch Memorial Stadium, Faurot Field at Missouri University and The Dome in St. Louis.

During his time in Cassville, Cole said there were many little memories he would never forget, such as how a young Mike Carr began getting involved with the team.

"When I first got started with practices, there was this little kid, like in grade school, who would show up riding his shetland pony and watch practices," Cole said. "He would come again and again, and finally he came to me and said, 'Coach, I have got to be a part of this. Can I be the water boy?'

"You could tell how much being a part of the program meant to him at an early age, and that is a real good story."

Cole said Carr's pony also became a big hit with the team.

"One day, I walked in after practice, and they had that Shetland pony in the showers and the kids were giving it a bath," he said. "The kids all loved Mike, and they loved his horse. That was always really interesting, the moment an athlete touches someone's life. That's why we coach."

The impact Cole made on Carr did not go by the wayside, as Carr went on to make 2nd Team All-State as an offensive tackle in his 1978 senior year.

At the Reeds Spring game Friday, Cole said he was saw a lot of things he liked out of this year's Wildcat squad.

"I was impressed, especially with the defense," he said. "The coaches were making adjustments to stop what Reeds Spring was hurting them with, and I was really impressed with how well the boys gang tackle, pursue the ball and the overall effort they put out.

"And on offense, [River Phelps] is fast. If you have speed like that. It's a good thing. The kids played hard and gave everything they had, and as a coach, you can see that.

Cole said building a program is no easy task, and a lot of it is predicated on numbers.

"My No. 1 advice to coaches now is to keep the numbers good," he said. "it looked to me like [Coach Lance Parnell] has got a lot of kids out there to play. Also, football is a game won by the fundamentals, blocking and tackling. The team has got to be together and believe in themselves and believe in the coaches."

Cole said another key is how the team practices.

"Practice-wise, you have got to make practice tougher and tougher every day," he said. "If you stand still, you're going to get beat. There are no magic symbols in the dirt or trick plays that make you win. It just takes hard work."

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