State-ranked showdown

Wednesday, October 10, 2018
Cassville’s Ethan Hoppes surveys the field on his way to a 55-yard punt return for a score Friday in Nevada. Kyle Troutman/

Cassville, Reeds Spring battle for top district seed

All eyes in the Class 3, District 6 pod will be focused on Reeds Spring Friday as No. 5-ranked Cassville (7-0) takes on the No. 10-ranked Wolves (5-2).

The Wildcats have positioned themselves to put a near strangle hold on the No. 1 district seed with a victory over Reeds Spring and home field advantage throughout the district tournament.

A loss, coupled with a Mt. Vernon win over Springfield Catholic would send Cassville spiraling to the No. 3 seed and a tougher road in the Class 3, District 6 playoffs.

“This is a big week for us,” said Lance Parnell, Cassville coach. “Every season, you look at the schedule and circle certain games, and our players have had this one circled for a while. Our guys have good memories and remember how Reeds Spring ended our season last year. We have a chance to go and show that we have gotten better and to get even for last year.”

Cassville rides into the game on the heels of a 50-8 win over Nevada in a game where a quick start led to a running clock the entire second half.

“I was proud of our team,” Parnell said. “They got off the bus after a long trip ready to play. We were able to be successful in all three phases of the game.”

The Wildcats chewed up 300 yards on the ground and threw for another 102 yards, which was almost in line with their season average of 311 yards rushing and 119 yards passing per contest.

Perhaps the most telling stat of the game was the fact Cassville only punted one time.

The Wolves enter the game fighting for the potential No. 1 seed despite the fact they fell 31-21 to Marshfield on Friday.

Currently, the Wildcats sit in first place in the Class 3, District 6 pod with 49.67 points. Mt. Vernon is second with 44.67, and Reeds Spring is third with 39.29.

The Wolves already own a one-point regular season win over the Mountaineers and would jump Mt. Vernon to the No. 2 seed via the automatic switch if the season ended today.

A Wolves win Friday, coupled with a Mt. Vernon loss to Springfield Catholic would move them into second place where they would hold the automatic flip over the Wildcats.

“The Wolves are a read-option team,” Parnell said. “Quarterback Blake Gronvold is a three-year starter for them, and he makes that offense go. On defense, we have to play assignment football in order to keep them contained.”

This season, Parnell has praised the leadership of his seniors, as the team has been impressive in all seven wins.

But, one position has emerged as a needed strength for Cassville that has been missing the last few seasons — wide receiver.

Blake Gordon, Ethan Hoppes, D.J. White and Bowen Preddy have added the depth to the offense, keeping opposing defenses honest. The quartet has caught 42 passes and scored 11 touchdowns.

“I think the biggest factor is that they are all a year older,” Parnell said. “They have confidence that Shannon [Haney] is going to get them the ball, and the offensive line is doing a great job of allowing Shannon to find his targets, as well.”

Keys for Wildcats

• Big and bad

The Wildcats have ridden outstanding offensive line play this far, and the journey is not over yet. Cassville will need to own the line again Friday.

• Bottle it up

Look for the Wildcats to jam the line of scrimmage with eight in the box and force the Wolves to win this game in the air.

• Hang on to the ball

That is pretty self explanatory, but with the potential for wet weather, turnovers could decide this game.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

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