Wildcats get boost from military influence
Medina, Ruark 'Always Ready, Always There'
Coaches often highlight and identify players who they count on for being leaders.
These individuals are usually the ones that are the most calm during the fiercest competitions. They do not always have the biggest stats when the game is over, but the team and the coaches know that without their contributions, victory would not have been accomplished.
This season, two Cassville seniors, Kyle Ruark and Gilbert Medina, fit that mold, according to their coach.
A love for the country led both to make hard choices and sacrifices that caused them to miss the entire summer workout and the first game of the regular season.
The two seniors signed up for the National Guard and instead of practicing, they went off to a 12-week basic training course.
Ruark was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood and Medina at Fort Jackson in South Carolina.
"I thought it would be a good opportunity and a great way to pay for college," Ruark said. "The hardest part for Gilbert and I was going to Coach [Lance] Parnell and telling him that we would be gone all summer."
The duo was not sure how the coach was going to take the news, but Parnell surprised them a bit with his response.
"I told them that I was proud of their choice and that they need to go and not worry about the team," Parnell said. "Any young person that volunteers to serve our country and protect our rights and freedoms has my full support."
Parnell said that when the two seniors returned from boot camp, they instantly made the Wildcats better.
"They brought a leadership style back from their military training that the other boys could follow," Parnell said. "We instantly became a better team with them on the field."
Due to Missouri High School Activities Association Rules the pair did not have enough practices to be eligible to play in a week one loss to Lamar.
"Neither one griped about their situation," Parnell said. "They gladly accepted their roles on the scout team and proceeded to give our starters fits with their play on the field."
While at basic training, both Medina and Ruark said the thing they learned the most was how to push themselves beyond their limits.
"Football practice when we got back is a lot easier than boot camp," Medina said. "I was able to take what I learned about being a leader and discipline and use that to help the team."
Being forced to watch on the sideline, the duo saw their Wildcats lose 50-0 to Lamar.
Since that time, the Wildcats, with pair's help, have reeled off four straight wins and they are looking to make it five at Monett on Friday.
"Everything they do, they just go hard," Parnell said. "As a coach, you love those players that you never have to worry if they are doing the right thing. Gilbert and Kyle fit into that mold. They aren't afraid to go up to a younger player and show them how to run a play better. We need that type of leadership from our seniors."
Parnell said the Wildcats are a different team when the two take the field.
"They don't get rattled," Parnell said. "After Lamar, we needed that calming influence."
The seniors know that their playing days are numbered, both upon graduation will be deployed for more training before being stationed with the engineering core at Pierce City for the next six years.
For now, the duo is happy to be making a difference on Friday nights. As the motto of the National Guard states -- Always Ready, Always There.