Wildcats win together
Cassville leaders more vocal in Friday win
After a Week 1 loss on the road, the Cassville football team worked hard in practice on a mental skill they hoped would help them win in Week 2 — togetherness.
The change in mindset paid off for Cassville, as the Wildcats held on to a 2-point lead and defeated Marshfield in the home opener, 22-20.
“The effort was there this week,” said Lance Parnell, Cassville coach. “We were more disciplined, and I felt we were stronger than last week with the little things.”
Parnell said leading up to the game, the team talked a lot about leadership, and he saw a change in his boys Friday.
“We talked about leadership and where it comes from, and I can’t even begin to name all the guys that stepped up in leadership roles [Friday night] and helped us get the win,” Parnell said. “It was a countless number. We had the effort and emotion, but the leadership we had on the field made a huge difference.”
One of those leaders, Drake Reese, sealed the win with an interception in the final minutes. It was his second pick of the night.
“The first one, I read the plan and floated in the middle and just came up with the ball,” he said. “The last one, I knew they were running that play and I jumped it.”
Reese said team-wise, he noticed a difference between Week 1 and Week 2, as well.
“We played with a lot of effort [Friday],” he said. “We were flying to the ball defensively, and overall, our mental focus was different this week.
“When we play as a team, we play a lot better. We were communicating, and people were stepping up, like sophomores Jake Anthonysz and Keaton Shellenberger.”
Parnell said the team focus on Friday was key in getting a win in such a close game.
“I felt the last couple of weeks we did not have a team focus,” he said. “We had an individual focus — too much me and not enough us — going around. Our big focus in practice all week was togetherness, because not one of us can do it on our own.
The Wildcats never trailed Friday, but the game was always close.
Cassville opened the scoring with a 2-yard rush by Jericho Farris with 55 seconds left in the opening quarter.
Before the quarter horn, the Bluejays struck with a 66-yard answer to tie the game at 7-7.
The teams traded turnovers and punts until halftime, and Cassville came out of the locker room swinging.
A more than four-minute drive culminated with Farris taking a pitch right and gashing through tackles for a 4-yard touchdown run.
But again, Marshfield answered, connecting a 38-yard pass to knot the score at 14.
With 4 seconds left in the third frame, Ethan Fuchs found paydirt, fighting tackles off for a 12-yard score.
An offside call on the Jays on the PAT convinced Cassville to try for 2, which was converted.
Marshfield scored on an 11-yard rush in the final quarter, but failed to convert the 2-point play.
With about 1 minute to go, Reese jumped and picked off a Jays pass to seal the win. When asked how it felt to pick a pass and win the game in that manner, Reese said, “I don’t know. It’s exciting.”
Cassville hits the road Friday to take on Nevada. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.