Wildcats spark themselves to win
Team ‘creates own energy’ en route to 48-6 win
The biggest key to Cassville’s 48-6 win over Aurora Friday in the first round of districts may not have even been during the game.
Lance Parnell, Cassville coach, said with the conditions and expectations Friday, it was up to the players themselves to create energy, and that is something they harped on at practice two days before kickoff.
“It was a cold, rainy day and we had to be outside because we knew it would be a cold day on Friday,” Parnell said. “We didn’t have the greatest energy early, but we created our own energy, got excited and probably had our best practice of the year in the nastiest weather, and we talked about doing that [in the game Friday]. We talked about it being a cold night, not a huge crowd here and a little bit quiet, so we had to create our own energy. It took us a little bit, but I thought our kids did well.”
Senior Kade Hayward said Wednesday and Friday were almost mirror images.
“[On Wednesday], coach was pumping us up,” he said. “It was cold, and the energy just came over us. [On Friday], we were not as physical as we usually are [in the beginning of the game], but we started getting big plays and having fun.”
Part of that fun came in turnover creation, as the Wildcats forced four, two fumbles and two interceptions.
“Any time you can create turnovers, that helps spark momentum,” Parnell said. “We did that on the first drive, and [later in the game] got a couple interceptions. Turnovers are always big momentum plays in the ballgame.”
Hayward snagged one of the interceptions, the final one of the contest. After reading the play and picking the pass, he returned the ball 147 yards, then ran over and bear hugged Parnell.
“That moment was amazing,” Hayward said. “Having a pick, taking it downfield and coming to the sideline and seeing coach very proud of me, it was just an amazing feeling.”
Parnell said Hayward has been a hard worker throughout his prep career, and plays like that in this time of the year are icing on the cake.
“For him to make that play in that moment was great,” Parnell said. “He has gotten better and better as the year has gone on, and I was excited for him to make that play.”
Cassville started the game by forcing a turnover, with Jericho Farris recovering a fumble on a run that would’ve given Aurora its third first down of its opening drive.
Three plays later, Brett Cooper recorded a 52-yard touchdown catch for a 7-0 lead.
Aurora then put together its only scoring drive of the game, going 80 yards and capping the drive with a 1-yard run to paydirt.
On Cassville’s next two possessions, Bowen Preddy scored on an 8-yard run, then Preddy scored again on a 10-yard run.
DJ White then made his mark on the game defensively, picking a Houn’ Dawg pass on fourth-and-5 and returning the ball 32 yards. A personal foul moved the ball to the 15, and on the first play after
the turnover, Preddy caught a pass and broke two tackles to push the lead to 27-6, which held until halftime.
After the break, Cassville wasted no time getting a mercy-rule lead. Cooper picked up a bouncing pooched kickoff and returned it to the 15. After a fourth-down conversion, Deven Bates found the end zone on a 4-yard sweep play.
On Aurora’s next possession, Farris recovered his second fumble of the game, then on the ensuing drive, he stretched the ball over the goal line on a 2-yard run to get a 41-6 lead.
Hayward’s interception on the next Houn’ Dawg drive set up Preddy for a 22-yard rush to the end zone and the final score.
Offensively, Farris led on the ground with 55 yards on 10 carries, and Preddy had 50 yards on 6 carries. Preddy recorded three touchdowns on the ground, and Farris and Deven Bates each had one.
Bates was 5-for-7 passing for 105 yards and two touchdowns, to Cooper and Preddy, their only catches. White had three catches for 38 yards.
On defense, Carson Jacobson led the way with 6 unassisted tackles and 3 assisted. Hayward had 6 unassisted and 2 assisted, and Jacob Olbertz had 5 unassisted and 2 assisted.
Cassville remains at home on Friday, hosting Monett in the district semifinals. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.