Wildcats seeking to reclaim jungle honors
Cassville hosts state champ Lamar on Friday
A simple message is being taught this week as the Wildcats football team welcomes Lamar to town on Friday to open the season — forget the past.
Cassville Coach Lance Parnell has told his team that being mentally tough is a huge part of football.
“We know we are going to make mistakes on the field, it will happen,” Parnell said. “But, it is how we respond to those mistakes that displays our growth.”
Parnell said he told his players that they cannot control the past, but they can control the future. They can reboot on the next play and show that there are no lasting effects.
Still fresh on Parnell’s mind is the last four meetings with Lamar, including a disappointing 50-0 outcome last year against the Tigers.
“I would not say it was an embarrassment, but we did not match Lamar’s intensity on either side of the ball,” Parnell said. “That game was an eye-opener for our team. We grew more from Week 1 to Week 2 than we did at any other point last season. Our kids saw that they can’t show up and feel their way through a game.”
In four meetings with the six-time defending state champions, the Wildcats have not fared that well. They have managed a total of 6 points and surrendered 185.
Fans have to go back to 2012 to find the last time the Wildcats prevailed over Lamar, 31-0.
“One touchdown in four games isn’t going to win you many games,” Parnell said. “Lamar has a huge line. That is what started their dominant run, and they once again have another tough, physical line that we have to contend with.”
The Tigers return T.W. Ayers, at 6-2, 240 pounds; Haydon Bartholomew,
6-2, 300 pounds; Caleb Gouge, 6-4, 302 pounds; Seth Fullerton, 6-2, 230 pounds; and Cam Augusta, 6-1, 275 to their line.
“Any time you play a Lance Parnell-coached Cassville team, you better be prepared to be physical,” said Scott Bailey, Lamar coach. “You have to win the turnover battle. We are both running teams, so possessions will be limited. Preferably you want to score each time you have the ball, but you better, at the very least flip the field position.”
Bailey said Cassville is a different team than the one they faced last year.
“They have some good running backs,” Bailey said. “They are bigger on the line than last year. Cassville, to me, when they have scored quickly, they have been able to beat us. We cannot give them short fields.”
Bailey said his squad’s Brotherhood mantra has become the infectious code for his team and has been spurred on by two key factors.
“First, we have become this program by peer-pressure,” Bailey said. “Our kids push each other to play at a higher level, to be better students and individuals. Secondly, winning has helped. Winning is like new siding on an old house, it changes the way everything feels. There are a lot of coaches and mentors and community members that have played a role in making our program strong. I’m just a small part of it.”
Parnell said his main goals for Friday are to see his team compete and be physical.
“If we make a mistake, let’s make it at 100 percent,” Parnell said. “I thought we did that at our jamboree. And, I want to see it carry over on Friday.”
Keys for Cassville
• Ball security
The Wildcats must hang on to the ball and sustain drives in order to compete on Friday. Cassville does not need to score on every drive, but several quick three and out possessions will tire the defense and lead to an undesirable scoreboard result.
• All eyes on Haney
Parnell said quarterback Shannon Haney had a great jamboree both throwing the ball and running the offense. This is his third year under center, and with an inexperienced backfield Haney’s leadership is needed more than ever. He does not need to shoulder the entire load, just be the calming presence on the field.
• Defense, defense and more defense
The only team Parnell has not defeated in the current Big 8 as head coach is Lamar. There is no need to ask him if 185 points in four games is too much. Parnell can nearly recount every Lamar scoring drive. With experience finally on the Wildcats side, look for the cagy coach to finally be able to dial up the pressure.
• The mystique of Wildcat field
If the game is close in the fourth quarter, you better bet on black. The Cassville fans have willed their team to more than one victory, and the Nation will be needed on Friday.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.