Cassville credits togetherness for string of victories

Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Garrett Knight picks up a bouncing ball after a St. James punt during the Wildcats' 21-12 win over the Tigers Friday. Kyle Troutman/

Off-field activities contribute to Wildcats' chemistry on the field

Midway through the season, the Cassville football team is a shade of the squad that left the field demoralized after a big loss to Lamar.

Since Week 1, the Wildcats have reeled off four straight wins, besting Reeds Spring, East Newton, McDonald County and St. James. Along with the "step" system implemented by Coach Lance Parnell, a number of other factors have helped the Cassville players gel better, on the field and off.

Devin Phelps, senior lineman, said since Week 1, the Wildcats have improved all around.

"We've been playing more physical and aggressive on both sides of the ball, and we're playing more together as a team," he said. "We know we can win big games."

Phelps said there are a number of factors playing into the string of wins, and all of it started with the first day of practice after the Lamar game.

"That week, we did some one-on-one drills to get some aggressiveness out," he said. "It brought us together and showed us we don't need to be afraid to hit. We come out every week and work hard."

Along with work at practice, Phelps said there are other traditions the team has created.

"We watch film at my house every Sunday," he said. "We also eat at BBQ Station on Fridays before games. That's something we've done since my freshman year. It's really good barbecue, and we bond as a team, and that translates to the field."

Parnell said after how the season started, he's glad to be back on the right track.

"At 4-1, we feel good," he said. "Coming out of that Lamar game, we weren't sure what we had or what would happen."

Even though Cassville has strung four wins together, Parnell said the work is not done.

"There are the little things we talk about, like we still have to learn to put games away," he said. "We'll have a team on the ropes and not put it away, but we still finish the ballgame."

Nevertheless, Parnell said his Wildcats have stayed the course.

"The boys knew there were a lot of improvements to do, and the come to work every day to improve," he said. "They have never got discouraged, and they know the opponent in front of them."

Parnell said the drills Phelps mentioned after Week 1 were part of his plan to get the players back to being physical.

"It's been my MO for the past 19 years to be a physical, aggressive football team, and we were not that before," he said. "The kids understood that after Week 1."

Parnell said he doesn't undercut the value of the team film sessions on Sundays and the barbecue outings.

"This is a good group of seniors who are very tight," he said. "Our juniors are tight, too. All our groups are good together and enjoy being around each other. If you do this long enough, you sometimes have to put up with some bickering, and that's something I've never had.

"The team going out for barbecue shows how close they are. Any time you have your team doing things together outside of football, you get results like we've had."

Parnell and the Wildcats are hoping the wins keep coming as they head into Monett Friday for the Barry County Brawl. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

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