Wildcats, Patriots battle Friday

Wednesday, October 19, 2016
Cassville's Steven Hunter fights off tacklers during the Wildcats' 30-29 win over Mt. Vernon Friday. Kyle Troutman/editor@cassville-democrat.com

Cassville welcomes challenge of 2nd season

With the madness of district seeding and posturing behind them, Cassville, who had its own insanity unfold in a 30-29 win over Mt. Vernon, now turns its attention to East Newton.

"Both teams are 0-0 as we head to this second season," said Lance Parnell, Cassville coach. "Last week, you saw two really good football teams battle it out. We got a wake up call and know that we have to be focused this week."

The Wildcats earned the No. 3 seed and host the No. 6 Patriots of East Newton. The two Big 8 teams tangled in Week 3, with the Wildcats prevailing, 42-16.

Despite the lopsided score, Parnell said the Patriots are a completely different team than the one they faced during the regular season. The Patriots come into Wildcat Station on the heels of a 56-13 loss to Monett, but Cassville knows East Newton is an improved unit.

"Coach [Jamie] LaSalle has done a tremendous job in his first season," Parnell said. "You watch tape on East Newton, and they have improved in every phase of the game since we played them."

Parnell said part of the secret to Friday's game is not thinking about the regular-season game.

"We are focused on the team coming in here," Parnell said. "The key for us is not to get too high or too low. We just need to go to work."

The Wildcats carry a three-game winning streak into Friday's tilt and are seeking to advance to their fourth straight district semifinal.

"We know this is a big game," Parnell said. "The kids should be motivated by the fact that if they want their season to continue, they need to win. I think they are ready for the challenge. It is what they have been working toward."

As far as the Wildcats' game plan goes, not much is going to change according to Parnell.

"We are a run-first team," Parnell said. "You want to establish you identity. They team that does that will have a great shot at winning the game."

Keys to the game

* Let the River flow

River Phelps has firmly put his name in the conversation as one of the best running backs in southwest Missouri. His speed is a problem for a lot of teams. His touches will need to be productive on Friday to collect a Cassville win.

* Defensive wall

The Wildcats' defensive line must chew up Patriot blockers so the linebackers can make stops. Look for Cassville to load the box and dare East Newton to throw.

* Draw first blood

Cassville tends to settle into games better when they score first. Momentum is magnified in the playoffs, especially when teams know there is no tomorrow.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

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