Wildcats’ season ends in Mountain Grove

Wednesday, November 3, 2021
Jake Anthonysz fights for extra yards during the Wildcats’ district playoff loss at Mountain Grove on Friday. Kyle Troutman/editor@cassville-democrat.com

Coach pleased with team’s overall growth

An up-and-down season for the young Cassville football team came to an end on Friday at the hands of Mountain Grove.

An even first half of play turned Mountain Grove’s way after the break, with the Wildcats falling to the Panthers in the first round of district action, 21-7.

Cutter Hicks lets a pass go during the playoff game against Mountain Grove Friday. Hicks threw for a touchdown in the contest, hitting Jake Anthonysz in the second quarter on a 34-yard strike. Kyle Troutman/editor@cassville-democrat.com

Cassville (3-7) ran for a first down on the opening play, but its offense stalled after that. The teams traded punts, and Cassville drove from its own 12 to the 30, with Hernan Hernandez faking a punt on fourth-and-4, ending up one yard short of moving the sticks.

The Panthers (7-2) capitalized on the field position, using a 22-yard rush to set up a 1-yard touchdown run to open the scoring.

Two Cassville drives later, Jake Anthonysz converted a fourth-and-2, then a Cutter Hicks hard count on a fourth down drew an encroachment to move Cassville to the 14.

Keaton Shellenberger, right, celebrates a sack with teammate Michael Morgan during Friday’s district playoff game. Kyle Troutman/editor@cassville-democrat.com

A third fourth down on the drive resulted in an incomplete pass and Mountain Grove taking over at its own 13.

The Wildcats forced a three-and-out, and the Panthers’ kick hooked out at the 34. It took one play, a Hicks pass to Anthonysz up the middle, for the Wildcats to knot the score at 7 each with less than a minute to go in the half.

It was the first road touchdown for the Wildcats all season.

The Panthers opened things up after the break, using multiple double-digit gains to go 69 yards in 2:34, scoring on a 4-yard run.

A lengthy kickoff return by Jerryd Reynolds put Cassville in striking distance at the Panthers’ 42, but an incomplete pass on fourth down gave Mountain Grove the ball back.

The Panthers again moved the ball well, crossing midfield and hitting a 44-yard touchdown on a slant route for a two-score lead with 3:14 left in the third.

Isaac Hadlow blocked a punt in the fourth quarter at the 22, but after reaching the red zone, the Wildcats wound up turning it over on downs.

Cassville also recovered a fumble at the Panthers’ 45-yard line with just over 3 minutes to play, but two plays later the Wildcats bobbled it back and the Panthers were able to burn out the remaining clock.

Lance Parnell, Cassville coach, said the back-to-back scores were the turning point in the game.

“Their first drive of the second half, they executed and took that drive down to score, then we gave up that big play and they stretched it to a two-possession game,” he said. “That made the difference. I thought our kids played really hard and battled for four quarters. We did a lot of good things, but unfortunately, we didn’t get the road win.”

Though the weather was chilly and there was a constant mist throughout the game, Parnell said he does not believe it was a factor.

“That’s just October football,” he said. “It should be cool, and there was a little light rain, but it was a good October football night.”

Looking back at the Wildcats’ campaign, Parnell said the team progressed well as the year went on.

“We knew we were a young football team and would have some growing pains, and there were,” he said. “When you look at the second half of the season, we were playing our best football. We had some good wins against Monett and East Newton. The young kids were getting better every week and the seniors did a good job leading them.

“We played well on the road in McDonald County and in Mountain Grove, and it was a ball game [on Friday] in the second half. We just got the short end of the stick.”

The youth for Cassville this season will transition to experience next year, and in many positions.

“We moved a lot of our young guys around in positions,” Parnell said. “Like Jake Anthonysz, he started at receiver and I think we found a home for him at running back. We had an extremely young offensive line, and those kids returning have played a ton of snaps. We also will return our receiving core, and our tight ends will be a strength next year.”

Parnell said losing some players to injury early on was difficult, but it provided opportunity.

“A lot of kids got experience in different spots, and we hope that pays dividends a year from now,” he said.

The highlight of the year, Parnell said was two-fold.

“One was the growth we made as a football team,” he said. “When you look at the whole body of work, the boys continued to work hard and get better, and they had a great attitude all year and came to practice to work.

“We also had the come-from-behind victory against Monett, where they were leading and we came back then stopped them to win that game. That was a big highlight this year.”

The Wildcats will lose only seven seniors to graduation, and Parnell said the legacy the little group leaves will be noticed.

“They are a great group of young men, and although there’s not a lot of them, the ones we had always had a great attitude, were selfless and did whatever we asked of them,” he said. “This is a group that really stayed together and continued to work hard and compete every time they stepped on the field.”

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