‘Cats shine in first half, wear down in second


It was a tale of two halves for the Cassville football team on Friday.

The Wildcats (3-2) held their own in the opening 24 minutes against a McDonald County team enjoying a significant size difference. Cassville went into the break down only a point, 7-6; however, mistakes and fatigue resulted in a scoreless second half an 28-6 loss to the Class 4 Mustangs.

Clay Weldy, Cassville football coach, said two teams were in the Black and Gold Friday.

“One team went into the locker room, and another came out,” he said. “I’m not sure who that team was, and I hope we never see them again.”

The first half was filled with series that mirrored one another. McDonald County took the kickoff at its own 33-yard line and marched down the field, scoring on a slant route on fourth down from the 19.

Cassville answered on its first drive. A short kickoff was recovered at the 39-yard line, and a facemask and horse collar put the Wildcats near the red zone. Bodee Rose and Bryson Jacobson runs moved the ball to half a yard from the goal line, and Jacobson punched it in on fourth down to make it 7-6.

After forcing a McDonald County punt, Cassville connected a 37-yard pass and ran the ball up to the 2-yard line, but a fumble at the 5-yard line sent McDonald County the other way.

The Mustangs had the same result on that drive, completing a long pass, and a quarterback scramble looked to be headed for a score, but a fumble at the goal line was recovered by Cassville in the end zone.

The Wildcats were forced to punt, and McDonald County threatened to score going into the half. A 13-yard completion to 5-yard line left only 1.2 seconds on the clock, and with no timeouts, the Mustangs did not get the snap off in time.

“We played with a lot of emotion,” Weldy said. “We made mistakes, but we created some turnovers, like we fumbled at the at the 2 but then created one.

“I’m proud of how we played in the first half. I wanted us to make it a four-quarter game and win late like we have twice this year, but we didn’t do that.”

Senior Dakota Bowen said as the team went into halftime, spirits were high.

“We were really high-energy, and it was great we were able to hold them. If we are as physical as we were in the first half, we’ll be a good-looking team at the end of the season.”

After the break, it was all McDonald County. Following a Wildcats punt, the Mustangs fullback kicked into gear, chewing up yards in chunks to score from 8. After another Cassville punt, the same fullback scored again from 10 to make it 21-6 as the third quarter clock wound down.

An interception on the ensuing drive set the same back up again for another 8-yard touchdown.

Cassville recovered another fumble in the end zone in the fourth quarter, but the offense struggled to get any sustained momentum. McDonald County knelt the ball out for the win from the Cassville 14-yard line.

“We played a hard, physical first half,” Weldy said. “In the second half, they were more physical and wore us down. We couldn’t tackle or block. It was the worst half we’ve played all year.”

Weldy said the second half was a mixture of McDonald County’s size becoming an advantage and the Wildcats getting worn down.

“We got wore down and their size got to us in the second half, and when you couple those with mental mistakes, that’s what happens,” he said. “We’ve got to get a lot better.”

Bowen agreed the combination of the Mustangs’ size and the Wildcats’ fatigue proved lethal.

“They outplayed us and wore us down,” he said. “We played good ball to start with, but then we made some mental mistakes and gave up some big plays.”

Bowen said size was less an issue than stamina.

“I don’t think their size really mattered because we were moving their big kids on the line,” he said. “We just got wore down and tired. We will be ready for next week.”

The Wildcats have another Class 4 challenge, undefeated Nevada (5-0). Weldy said for a chance at the upset, the Wildcats have to play consistently in all phases of the game.

“We will have to create some turnovers and not turn the ball over ourselves,” he said. “We will have to play very well up front on both sides of the ball. We will also have to block and tackle better.”

A challenge Cassville cannot completely prepare for is the size factor, which played a role in the McDonald County contest.

“We can’t simulate size right now in practice, because we don’t have much size on our team,” Weldy said. “We will have to keep preparing the best we can and work on controlling the things we can control throughout the week of practice and in the game this Friday. We always focus on conditioning every week, and this was the first week where we looked worn down at the end of the game this season. I think it had more to do with McDonald County’s size leaning on us as the game wore on then it had to do with being out of shape. So, we will keep practicing hard and conditioning, and try to be better this week than last week.”

Kickoff on Friday at Wildcat Stadium is at 7 p.m.