Kyle Troutman: A hat’s eye view

Wednesday, December 1, 2021
Lance Parnell celebrates the 2020 district title with his team. Kyle Troutman/editor@cassville-democrat.com

Coaches come and go, but not many have done what Lance Parnell has done in Cassville — stay.

For nearly a quarter-century, his ball caps have seen many spectacular victories and heart-wrenching losses on Friday nights, a few of which I was on the ride for, too. Before the Fridays, in the cool and damp summer mornings, Lance can be found in his fishing hat on the practice field, overseeing a program he has led for nine years and been involved in since before his athletes were born.

I began following the Wildcats in the 2014 season, and in the last seven years, I have seen all sides of ball cap Lance. After each game I attend, I catch up with the coach for some follow-up questions, and I try to find a player, usually a senior, to interview for the following week’s story.

Lance Parnell hugs Chase Jackson, a 2014 senior who Parnell put in for one snap all season due to injury. Kyle Troutman/editor@cassville-democrat.com

Sometimes I would get him on the field, or for a while, I would talk to a player then meet Lance in the radio booth, where he usually answered most of my questions anyway.

Lance is an even-keeled guy, but he packs a lot of emotion into his work. Some games, like this year’s loss at Seneca, end with an unwelcome scoreline and result in less descriptive interviews. Others, like this year’s Barry County Brawl win the week before, come with the best scoreline (any score that wins) and a more robust, jovial interview.

Lance wears his heart on his sleeve for his teams, and with a determined consistency

Lance Parnell revs up his defense in last year’s contest at Mt. Vernon. Kyle Troutman/editor@cassville-democrat.com

over the years. His type of leadership produces his level of success.

Since 2013, Lance’s teams have won two-of-three games at 69-37. They also produced one state runner-up season and another journey to the state semifinals.

Another unforgettable game came in 2018, when a sophomore kicker hit a 36-yard field goal at the horn to defeat Lamar, which had the nation’s longest active winning streak at the time. The win also gave the Wildcats an undefeated regular season and conference championship.

While the interviews about all these successes have come while Lance is wearing a ball cap, it’s that other hat, the fishing hat, that’s the real brains of the operation.

Over the summer, through camps at school and at William Jewell College, Lance teaches what he knows probably better than football — family.

So far in my coverage, it doesn’t count as a true Cassville football season if I don’t quote Lance saying this at least once a season, “This is about more than football. It’s about molding good young men who will be great citizens, employees, husbands and fathers as they become adults.”

Lance’s effect in this regard is not tucked away in a memory box or recalled as great days gone by. Many of the Cassville football players I have covered over the years remain in the area and are a positive example for those around them.

Sometimes, it takes a little extra effort on Lance’s part, especially in high-energy moments. One of those came last year in the biggest game of the year at that time, the state quarterfinals.

After a play, Cassville’s senior quarterback said some magic words that drew a penalty and forced a second-and-20 near midfield. Lance pulled his player to the side and had what we at the newspaper must legally refer to as “a little chat.”

The gist was, control your emotions and play for the team. The quarterback set for four plays, going back in to convert a fourth-and-1 and go on to score three touchdowns in the win.

It’s that kind of in-game — no matter the stakes of the game — life coaching that sets Lance apart in his craft. And it’s those kinds of lessons learned that breed seniors like the 2019 class.

After they fell to Odessa in the state championship in the fall an Odessa graduate died in a car crash the following summer. Four Cassville players, the senior leaders of the team, drove on their own volition to the Odessa player’s visitation.

The gesture and story about the trip was a tearjerker, and that kind of action by Lance’s players is one of the best examples of how the game transcends the chalk and that coaches can have a life-long impact.

I will miss Lance at the helm of the team, but his replacement should pick up where Lance has left off. Clay Weldy has big shoes to fill, and he has been around long enough to know how it needs to be done Cassville.

Although, I think the new skipper may have to invest in a few hats.

Kyle Troutman has served as the editor of the Cassville Democrat since 2014. In 2017, he was named William E. James/Missouri Outstanding Young Journalist for daily newspapers. He may be reached at 417-847-2610 or editor@cassville-democrat.com.

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