Wildcats breaking in new O
Hicks takes over at QB, trio of backs gaining experience
It has been a while since the Cassville football team had to break in an all-new backfield, but that is what the Wildcats are tasked with this season after graduating a total of 21 starters in the 2020 campaign.
Lance Parnell, Cassville coach, said the man under center and the backs behind him will all have to gain experience quickly this season, taking few starts into a new season that will be marked by youth.
While the depth chart is still being finalized, senior Cutter Hicks is atop the quarterback slot so far this summer. Hicks got a taste of varsity action as the signal caller last year, coming in for the final quarter against Mt. Vernon in Week 1 and starting the next two weeks while Hayden Sink was out with injury. Parnell said in the past year, Hicks has undergone a ton of changes.
“The cool thing about Cutter is this time last year, he was our No. 4 guy,” Parnell said. “He did a great job at the jamboree, and that moved him up to No. 2. Then, he stepped in for the fourth quarter in Mr. Vernon and started those two games. That has given him a leg up this year, and he has established himself as a leader on our football team.”
Parnell said Hicks’ biggest upside is how he plays the game and his mind for it.
“Cutter is extremely intelligent and coachable,” Parnell said. “He knows his strengths and he does a great job playing to them. He’s very calm and has a great rapport with his teammates. He brings a calming presence into our huddle.”
Parnell said that even-keeled nature is a big plus for Hicks, who will likely have the added pressure of being named the full-time starter of a team coming off a state runner-up season in 2019 and Final Four run last year.
“Cutter started those couple games last year, but stepping up to being ‘the guy,’ we will ask a lot from him,” Parnell said. “I believe he will continue to be himself and not do more than he can do.”
Parnell said work this summer has focused primarily on the run offense and developing Hicks’ decisions in the option.
“We are working on his option game, and he is still growing there,” Parnell said. “But, he throws really well, and he’s a really good leader. One cool thing about him is as a freshman, he was about 5-4, 120 pounds, and now, he’s matured and is 5-11, 185 pounds. As coaches, we enjoy watching kids grow and develop like that.”
Behind Hicks, game-time experience is at a premium, as the Wildcats return only 236 yards rushing.
“We have Ethan Fuchs returning,” he said. “Ethan has some experience after replacing Zach Coenen early last season and starting fullback in the first three games. We will look to him as a leader, and he is a physical, hard-nosed kid.
“After that, we are young. Trey Wilson will be a junior and got a little time early last season, and Jadon Ewing got a little spot play. Both of them battled some injuries and other issues last year. Bryson Jacobson will be a sophomore, so we’re counting on those four guys.”
Fuchs returns 101 years on 28 carries for Cassville. Wilson had 91 yards on 16 carries last season, and Ewing posted 43 yards on 12 hauls.
Parnell said while the returning numbers are minuscule, the Wildcats are not in any uncharted territory.
“We’ve been here before,” Parnell said. “It’s part of high school football that your players graduate. We will take our time and stay with our philosophy to be playing our best football at the end of the year. We won’t try to do too much, but rather, go slow and give our kids opportunities to be successful. Being so young in our skill position spots makes that especially true.”
Ultimately, Parnell said the youth movement in Cassville is exciting for the future of the program.
“These kids have the opportunity to step up, and they have some big shoes to fill,” he said. “But, it’s their time. We look forward to watching them grow. With youth, experience will follow.”
Editor’s note: This story is part of a weekly series looking at each position group within the Cassville football team.