Wildcats with a chance to earn respect

Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Cassville quarterback Shannon Haney (No. 17) follows blockers on his way to a score during the Wildcats' 21-12 win over St. James Friday. Kyle Troutman/editor@cassville-democrat.com

Cassville has a chance to make several statements at Monett

Four years ago, three words were chosen to describe the rivalry between Monett and Cassville -- Barry County Brawl.

Cassville has the distinct honor of winning the first installment of the annual gridiron match, but the last two meetings have gone to the dreaded rival Monett. The major contributing factor to the Cubs' success the last two years has been simple -- senior leadership.

A trio of Cassville players take down a St. James runner during the Wildcats' 21-12 win over the Tigers Friday. Kyle Troutman/editor@cassville-democrat.com

The Wildcats went through a spell where injuries, youth and inexperience cost them dearly in two of the three Brawl match ups.

This year is different. Cassville (4-1, 2-1) enters the game against Monett (4-1, 2-1) with the same record and a higher district playoff seed (No. 2) than the Cubs. The game looms large in terms of getting back to the level of state respect the team enjoyed the three years following its back-to-back state titles.

After a 50-0 loss to Lamar to open the season, the Wildcats did a tremendous amount of soul-searching. The results have been undeniable, four wins in four games is hard to argue against. A win on Friday would put the Wildcats in the driver's seat for the No. 1 district seed, and they own a automatic switch over top-seeded Reeds Spring due to the head-to-head win in week 2.

Furthermore, a victory over the No. 4 team in Class 3 would thrust the 'Cats into state ranking consideration. While Coach Lance Parnell does not want to discuss the possibility of being state ranked, the members of Wildcat Nation would welcome the inclusion of their squad's name among the state's elite.

Standing in the way are the Cubs and the purple and gold uniforms that cause many Wildcat fans to see red.

"We haven't spent much time talking about who we are playing Friday," Parnell said. "We know it's Monett. Our players don't need to be reminded and if they need extra motivation for the game, something is wrong."

The biggest problem facing Parnell and the Wildcats defense is containing Monett's multifaceted offense.

"Coach [Derrek] Uhl has so many ways to attack you," Parnell said. "It starts with Michael Branch at tailback and then funnels down to their wide receivers in [Brian] Parra-Navarro and [Mason] Swearingen. Then, they release Alex Turner off the line at tight end and he just hurts you on both sides of the ball with his play."

With so many ways to attack, Parnell joked he was employing a "helicopter defense" to just drop players off when the Cubs decide who is getting the ball.

"We talk every week about being disciplined and playing your position," Parnell said. "Friday is a great example of that going to be the case. You miss an assignment and Monett will make you pay."

Given the emotions that will be flying around on the field on Friday, Parnell said his team will spend time working on playing within themselves this week in practice.

"We don't want to get caught up trying to do too much," Parnell said. "Every game has ebbs and flows, you can't get too high or too low. We need to remain on an even keel."

Cassville will be tasked with doing something that no other team has done this season -- stop Cubs running back Michael Branch.

The Monett senior is averaging 136 yards rushing per game and two touchdowns. He has also caught 10 passes for 202 yards and three more scores.

"He's a bruiser that punishes tacklers who take him on," Parnell said. "He'll carry guys and then come back ready to do it again."

Quarterback Ian Meyer also presents another challenge for the Wildcats. Meyer has thrown for nine touchdowns and 754 yards this season and has benefited from the size of his offensive line.

"He gets plenty of time to throw," Parnell said. "There is nothing easy about this game for us."

Keys for Cassville

* Tempo, tempo, tempo

The Wildcats want to make this a boring game and silence the Cubs' home field crowd out. Three yards a play would suit Parnell just fine. If the Wildcats can sustain drives and chew up the clock, they'll take home the hardware.

* Keep the ball in the park

Cassville cannot afford to allow Monett to make use of the "Big Play." The Wildcats must wrap up and gang tackle the Cubs and force them to drive the ball to score points.

* Pull the rabbit out of the hat

Look for the Wildcats to sneak a trick play or two into the mix this week. Parnell and Uhl are good friends off the field and like to have bragging rights amongst themselves. A reverse, flea flicker, or halfback option pass to an eligible tackle would not be out of the realm of possibility, or maybe just a simple fake punt.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

Cassville starters

Offense

17 - Shannon Haney, QB

23 - River Phelps, RB

12 - Kyle Ruark, RB

3 - Troy Rose, WR

15 - Collin Pearman, WR

50 - Jesus Perez, C

77 - Devin PHelps, RG

79 - Hunter Bailey, LG

75 - Riley Fletcher, RT
72 - Mason Hendrix, LT

84 - Austin Sanders, TE

Defense

8 - Braden Strahan, FS

10 - Michael Hunter, CB

23 - River Phelps, CB

25 - Garrett Knight, SS

35 - Anthony Tolbert, LB

39 - Gilbert Medina, LB

49 - Kyle Ruark, LB

40 - Zack Burton, DL

42 - Steven Hunter, DL

74 - Austin McClintock, DL

77 - Devin Phelps, DL

season stats

MonettCategoryCassville
187Points123
1,970Total yards1,337
1,150Rushing1,117
820Passing220
57Completion %43
7Turnovers4
3Interceptions1
4Fumbles3
230YPG Rushing223.4
164YPG Passing55
36.6Net Punt Avg.33.9

Team Leaders

Rushing

Monett: Michael Branch, 85-680, 10 TD; Onis Howard, 28-183, 3 TD

Cassville: River Phelps, 78-690, 9 TD; Kyle Ruark, 41-192, 1 TD

Passing

Monett: Ian Meyer, 47-83-754, 6 TD

Cassville: Shannon Haney, 15-35-220, 3 TD

Receiving

Monett: Brian Parra-Navarro, 9-233, 3 TD; Michael Branch, 10-202, 3 TD

Cassville: River Phelps, 8-144, 1 TD; Troy Rose, 3-54, 1 TD

Defense

Monett

Onis Howard: 41 tackles, 28 unassisted tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss

Coy Butterworth: 22 tackles, 15 unassisted tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks

Cassville

Steven Hunter: 45 tackles, 35 unassisted tackles, 3 sacks

Garrett Knight: 30 tackles, 23 unassisted tackles

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