Wildcats strong in second half
Conversations at the break reenergize Cassville
A handful of times this season, the Cassville football team has entered the locker room at halftime in a close game, then exploded out of the break to run away with a victory.
Friday's district playoff win over East Newton was the perfect example of this phenomenon, as Cassville took only a 28-15 lead into halftime. By the final whistle, the Wildcats had added 35 unanswered points for a 63-15 victory.
The game was salted away quickly after halftime, as Cassville took the kickoff and drove the length of the field for a 1-yard Steven Hunter touchdown. Then, Troy Rose picked off a Patriot pass and River Phelps added a 3-yard score. Less than a minute later, Zack Burton recovered a fumble to set Phelps up for another score on a 21-yard run.
In just 4 minutes and 42 seconds, Cassville's lead had ballooned to 49-15.
"The key was the team coming together as one," Hunter said. "It's like the coaches say, if one piece of the puzzle is missing, we can't put together the whole picture."
Hunter said the Wildcats went into the locker room at halftime knowing they had been slacking some.
"The mood in there was that we were all mad we had messed up and kept them in it, so we decided we had to fix it," he said. "We got excited because we knew we had a ballgame on our hands."
Parnell said Friday's game was a little different than games of the past.
"We knew we had some mental let downs late in the first quarter and made some mistakes," he said. "[At halftime], we simply had the conversation of what we had to do to play the kind of football we like to play. We came out reenergized and more focused, and that's what you look for in a football team."
Key in the Wildcats' win was the line play on both sides of the ball. Offensively, Cassville put up more than 320 yards rushing, with Phelps going for six scores, his second such game this year, and other touchdowns carried in by Hunter, Shannon Haney and Gilbert Medina. Defensively, Cassville held East Newton to 0-and-10 on third downs and forced five turnovers.
"The front four on our defensive line played really well," Parnell said. "They controlled the line of scrimmage and did a good job bottling up East Newton and forcing them to throw. We have not always been solid on third and fourth downs, and we did a really nice job this week stepping up and making plays."
Another plus for the Wildcats was the lack of penalties. Other than two delay of game penalties near the final whistle, Cassville only took one flag, a facemask in the second quarter that negated a 60-yard Garrett Knight touchdown run.
"On Mondays, we do our normal conditioning, then we do extra running for penalties and turnovers," Parnell said. "When we took those late delay of game penalties, I looked at the guys and said, 'You know you're going to have to run for those Monday.' They just looked at me and said, 'Really?' I guess I might let those slide."
Cassville will hope to have running back Kyle Ruark back when the Wildcats trek to Monett Friday. Hunter had been getting more carries in the two weeks Ruark has been recovering from an ankle sprain, and he said the team's ability to continue getting wins is raising morale.
"Kyle is one of my best friends, and we work on our running back play all the time," Hunter said. "I thank the coaches and offensive line for our success, because we've created a system where we can put anyone in and have success, and if without the movement the line creates up front, we wouldn't get anything."
Cassville faces Monett in the district semifinals on Friday at 7 p.m. at Burl Fowler Stadium.