Rivalries rekindled by Big 8 restructure

The Cassville football team will rekindle Big 8 rivalries of yesteryear in its new schedule this season, which features a contest against each conference foe and one non-conference bout.

Clay Weldy, Cassville football coach, said he’s excited to play a Big 8 Conference slate consisting of Cassville, Aurora, East Newton, Lamar, Nevada, McDonald County, Monett, Mt. Vernon and Seneca.

‘I’m happy to go back to more traditional big 8 opponents, which makes our schedule a little tougher,’ he said. ‘This will be more like when I was in high school [at Aurora] and started coaching. They will all be tough games in football towns against good schools. It’s exciting, and I know it will be a challenge.’

The biggest challenge of the season may come right out of the gate, as the Wildcats, who went 6-5 last season, travel to Seneca on Aug. 30 to face 2023 Class 3 runner-up Seneca, who defeated Cassville twice last season, including in the district playoffs.

‘That’s a big game we are excited for,’ Weldy said. ‘Seneca returned quite a few starters and some good athletes. They won their district in 2022 and were state runner-up in 2023, so we know it will be a tough game. The thing about playing a good team so early is you see right off the bat, win or lose, the things you need to fix.’

The Wildcats play a homeaway- home-away slate in September, hosting McDonald County on the 6th, traveling to East Newton on the 13th, returning home against Lamar on the 20th and finishing the month with the season’s longest trip to Harrisonville on the 27th.

Smack in the middle of the season, the new opponent is 161 miles (2-1/2 hours) north toward Kansas City.

‘Harrisonville won five state titles as a program in the early 2000s and have had a lot of success in the last 20 years,’ Weldy said. ‘Everyone had one bye week, and the option to play Harrisonville came up. We feel it will be a good game because they are a tough team and well-coached.’

Harrisonville, whose mascot is also the Wildcats, also finished the 2023 season at 6-5 with one playoff win.

In October, Cassville also has two games away and two at home. The Wildcats travel to Mt. Vernon on the 4th, then host Nevada on the 11th and Monett for the Barry County Brawl on the 18th, capping the season at Aurora on the 25th.

‘This schedule overall will make us better,’ Weldy said. ‘We have a lot of Class 4 schools, and it’s nice to get Mt. Vernon and Aurora every year, which is how it should be in my opinion. We haven’t seen Mt. Vernon since 2021, so it’s back to the old days.’

Weldy said looking at the slate, five opponents were state-ranked in classes 2-4 at the end of 2023. Four were district champions, one went on to be a state champion and another a state runner- up.

‘Several teams have a lot of talent coming back,’ Weldy said. ‘This is the toughest schedule we’ve had since I have been at Cassville.

“But, we are really excited and ready to get going.’

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