Experience to lead Wildcats football when new season starts
Cassville returns 16 starters; coach sets lofty goals
There is no need to remind Cassville Football Coach Lance Parnell about the upcoming season.
Parnell and his coaching staff began preparing for the 2018 slate when the 7-4 2017 season ended with a loss to Reeds Spring.
A new year, with an expanded conference, has not changed Parnell’s expectations, and he has impressed upon his Wildcats that he expects nothing but their best.
“Our kids understand that no one has any higher expectations of them than we [the coaching staff] do,” Parnell said. “We are very excited about this season. We return several players that have quality experience over the last couple of years. We will have some important holes to fill on both sides of the ball.”
It has been six years since the Wildcats have played for a district title, and that is something that motivates the whole program at Cassville.
Parnell took a hard look at his team after last season and was honest with his squad before the spring and summer workouts began when it came to where they have to improve.
“We have to get more physical,” Parnell said. “There were times where we couldn’t stop the run on defense. There were times when we needed to run the ball in critical situations and we didn’t get the job done. With our offense, we have to be able to run the ball.”
The Wildcats were told that they were going to reboot this offseason and focus on taking things one week at a time.
“We have a large group of seniors and a tremendous amount of talent,” Parnell said. “It may sound just like coach speak, but we are taking things one week at a time. I felt like we had a strong winter, spring and summer workout program, and our experience should pay off.”
Cassville averaged 26 points, 98 yards passing and 221 yards rushing per game last season.
From that squad, the Wildcats return nine offensive starters, including three-year starter at quarterback in Shannon Haney, both running backs and receivers. Along with four of the teams’ six spots on the line.
“We will not be the fastest overall team on the field,” Parnell said. “But, with the skill set and experience that our kids have, we will be tough to defend.”
Parnell said it helps having the experience of Haney in the backfield.
“I wouldn’t say that I raised my expectations for him,” Parnell said. “I’ve always had high expectations for Shannon, but he has the experience needed to lead this team. We have full faith in his ability to do that.”
Defensively, the Wildcats allowed just 17 points, 185 yards rushing, 86 yards passing per game last season. Cassville welcomes back seven of its 11 starters on that side of the ball.
Returning for the Wildcats are seniors Zack Burton, 6-3, 245-pound defensive end; Evan Kessinger, 6-1, 220-pound defensive end; Haney, 5-10, 165-pound quarterback and punter; Anthony Tolbert, 6-2, 175-pound running back; and Austin Sanders, 6-1, 215-pound tight end. Juniors Johnny Medina, 5-10, 180-pound linebacker; and D.J. White 6-0, 180-pound wide receiver, also make a return to the squad.
Cassville’s returning seniors and juniors combined to claim 14 All-Conference, and Region awards.
“Our senior leadership was very good last season,” Parnell said. “How we fill that role this year will be key to our success. Each week in our conference is a key match-up. You must be ready to play each and every week. I see the Big 8 as a whole being much better this season.”
The Wildcats open the 2018 campaign on the road at Aurora. Their home opener is a week later, as they welcome new conference member Springfield Catholic to town.