Wildcats primed for next year
Season may be over, but buzz has begun
It was not the ending the Cassville football fans and Coach Lance Parnell had hoped to see on Friday.
The Wildcats' season concluded with a 35-21 loss to rival Monett, a road game many felt Cassville would steal.
Part of the reason the squad earned that support was the manner in which it improved throughout the entire season.
"Our players gave me everything they had this season," Parnell said. "We got hammered by Lamar, and then they pulled together and just got better every week."
Parnell complemented the individuals that form Wildcats Nation as a big part of the team's success.
"Our kids love that term, 'Wildcat Nation,'" he said. "Our fans created a buzz when we started rolling, and as the season went along, that buzz of excitement turned into a roar. Everywhere we go and everywhere we play, we have a large fan following."
Parnell praised his senior players for setting the right example this season and setting the tone for the younger players heading into the offseason.
"Every year, I challenge our seniors to become our leaders," Parnell said. "I felt that our players embraced that role this season. They will be missed next year."
Monett struck early against the Wildcats, taking the opening kickoff and driving 84 yards in 12 plays and 4:09 to take a 7-0 lead on an Ian Meyer 1-yard keeper.
The key play on the drive was a fourth-and-2 reception by Brody Crawford that covered 27 yards.
Cassville punted on its initial possession and allowed the Cubs to take over at the 14.
Monett went to work and ground 86 yards in 10 plays.
Michael Branch barreled into the end zone from 9 yards out on the next play to elevate the advantage to 14-0 with 10:52 left in the second period.
Cassville countered with a methodical, 92-yard drive that took 13 plays and resulted in a Shannon Haney 11-yard quarterback keeper to slice the advantage in half to 14-7 with 4:23 left in the half.
Onis Howard answered quickly for the Cubs with a 65-yard kickoff return to set Monett up at the Cassville 35.
Monett needed just five plays to allow Branch to score again on a 3-yard plunge with 2:00 minutes left in the first half.
Cassville was forced to play the second half without River Phelps, who was injured, but still managed to cut the lead to 21-14 with 4:15 left in the third quarter. However, Monett, behind a 73-yard drive on the legs of Branch resulted in a 28-14 lead, which swelled to a 35-14 advantage on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Troy Rose provided a pride score with 2:50 remaining in the game.
Cassville returns a strong core of players next season, including a large sophomore class that will be juniors.
"Next season begins now," Parnell said. "The amount of work we do in the offseason will impact how well our season will be next year. We hope to turn our fans buzz into an even louder roar."