2 years, 2 close wins
Cassville-Mt. Vernon always a nail-biter
If the last two years are any indication, die-hard Cassville football fans have one game they must mark on their calendars — Week 9 against Mt. Vernon.
In 2016, Cassville blocked two consecutive field goals, the second necessary after going offside on the first, to secure a 1-point win on senior night. This year, the drama continued, as the Wildcats batted away three consecutive end zone passes from inside the 10 with less than 30 seconds left to secure an 8-point victory on the road.
On Friday, it was the ability to sustain long drives and the never-say-die attitude on defense that carried Cassville to victory.
“It was a pretty good game,” said quarterback Shannon Haney, who scored three rushing touchdowns on
the night, two years after making his varsity debut as a freshman. “Our line really set the tone, and any time that happens, it translates to everything working.”
Haney finished the night with 145 net yards on 28 carries, plus scores from 4, 13 and 5 yards. The third score came from a tricky formation — the gate— where only three linemen stay in the box and the rest line up outside the left hash. Despite having to call a timeout before the first run of the play, the second attempt proved magical, as Haney cut right, then left, breaking a tackle at the goal line to secure his 18 points of the evening.
“We worked on that in practice all last week, and it’s a one-on-one formation where the most physical player wins,” he said.
Lance Parnell, Cassville head coach, said the gate has been in the Wildcats’ back pocket all year, and Friday was the perfect time to break it out.
“It’s actually designed as a 2-point play, but where we were at in the game, I felt we needed a touchdown,” he said. “We can always adjust it if we don’t see what we like, but Shannon read it perfect and got us the score.”
Cassville’s offense was rolling Friday, to say the least. Despite a series of punts in the third quarter, the Wildcats strung together four 60-plus-yard, clock-devouring drives.
“Our offensive line got them moving from the start of the game,” Haney said. “Once we get the push to their side of the line, it’s a 2-yard gain, and if the backs hit it hard, they keep going.”
Parnell said the offensive line played well all night.
“We took care of the football and converted on big third downs, some through the air,” he said. “We got those tough yards when we needed them.”
Cassville’s defense also showed up Friday, forcing Mt. Vernon into two field goal attempts, one at the end of the first half that hit the right goal post, then a second on the Mountaineers’ first possession of the second half that flew wide right.
The Wildcats secondary also had its moment, batting away three straight end zone passes, one by Ethan Hoppes and two by Haney, in the final seconds to secure the win.
“Our secondary played phenomenal all night long,” Parnell said. “Mt. Vernon has a talented receiving core, and our kids broke on the ball well. Our backs were against the wall and we had to fight for that win. The kids showed their heart on that drive.”
Offensively, the Wildcats ran 61 plays on the ground. Anthony Tolbert racked up 54 net yards on 19 carries, and Logan Carlin garnered 57 net yards on 14 carries. Haney was 5-for-9 passing for 45 yards with one interception. Sophomore Bowen Preddy brought in 4 catches for 34 yards Garret Knight brought in the other ball, an 11-yard gain.
Defensively, Braden Strahan led with 9 unassisted tackles. Knight had 7, and Wyatt Goade and Ethan Hoppes each had 5.
The Wildcats return home for the first round of the playoffs on Friday, hosting Hollister with a 7 p.m. kickoff.