Keeping focused key for Cassville
Wildcats talk at halftime propel team to win
Lance Parnell, Cassville football coach, regularly says every game in the Big 8 is tough, and his Wildcats take the season week by week, game by game, making sure to be prepared for each opponent.
Friday’s contest with East Newton, a 21-7 win for Cassville (4-1), served to prove Parnell’s phrase, as the Patriots are rejuvenating their program and gave Cassville a tougher matchup than what the team may have expected.
“We were much more mentally focused in the second half,” Parnell said. “I think we underestimated our opponent, even with everything on film showing they were an equal to us. They showed up with a high level of play, a high level of execution and they played with enthusiasm.”
The Patriots came out hot, converting two third downs, a third-and-7 and a third-and-5, before connecting a 15-yard crossing route into paydirt to open the scoring. They held that lead into halftime.
“We were humbled at halftime,” Parnell said. We talked about the things we could control and the things we couldn’t. We couldn’t control the past, but we could control the future and what we did in the second half, and I’m proud of how we came out and competed.”
The Wildcats burst from the locker room with a pep in their step. Cassville recovered a low kickoff at its own 24-yard line, and a trio of Bowen Preddy first downs, two for double-digit gains, set up Zach Coenen for a 1-yard score.
The Patriots were able to convert a fourth-and-short on their next drive, but were forced to punt. Deven Bates then took Cassville into the lead with a 72-yard touchdown run after faking the handoff and breaking left, then sidestepping a defender about 40 yards out to finish the jaunt.
Later in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats forced a turnover on downs at East Newton’s 33-yard line. After a penalty, a 22-yard run from White led to a 21-yard touchdown run from Coenen.
Carson Jacobson picked off a Patriot pass with 2:06 to play, allowing Cassville to secure the win.
“They were more physical than we were in the first half,” said senior Kade Howard. “We stepped up after our talk at halftime, and we were more physical in the second half. We talked about how we did not come out ready in the first half, and we wanted to show the coaches how we could step up and play, react positively to the first half and put in more effort.”
Howard’s effort was never in question Friday, as he led the team defensively with 7 unassisted tackles and 2 assisted. He also broke up numerous passes, including one on East Newton’s second drive that gave Cassville the ball on downs, and another one he batted away from the Patriot quarterback’s hand as it was being released.
“Coach gave me the scouting report, and I studied that, and we watch a lot of film,” he said. “I was just able to study their pass plays.”
Parnell said Howard’s week of leading up to the game showed promise.
“Kade had a good week of practice and was focused,” Parnell said. “He played hard and very well [Friday] defensively.”
East Newton out-gained Cassville offensively, with 298 yards to the Wildcats’ 294. Bates and Coenen led the ground attack, with Bates getting 101 yards on 5 carries and one score, and Coenen racking up 82 yards on 13 carries and two scores. Bates was also 3-of-5 through the air for 14 yards. Brett Cooper, Jericho Farris and Bowen Preddy had a catch each.
Defensively, Howard led the team, with Carson Jacobson not far behind with 6 unassisted tackles and 5 assisted. Garrett Kritz also logged 5 unassisted tackles.
Killian Barbee and Jacobson snagged one interception each, with Jacobson’s coming at the 2:06 mark of the final quarter, allowing the Wildcats to close out the win.