JOPLIN — What a difference a week makes.
One game after the McAuley Warriors amassed 331 rushing yards against Ash Grove, the Diamond Wildcats defense held them to four yards on the ground Friday. That, coupled with an equally strong performance from the offense, helped the Wildcats cruise to a 36-18 victory at Fred G. Hughes Stadium.
The bulk of the Warriors’ 297 total yards came on three plays; two 75-plus yard passes and another from 49. But those big plays weren’t enough against a Wildcats team hungry for their second win in as many weeks.
The Wildcats picked off the Warriors three times, with Evan Moreland, Kyle Williams, and Brodie Bien getting one apiece. Bien led the team with 13 tackles while Tanner Paradies had nine stops.
Perhaps the biggest stat, however, was Diamond’s eight sacks. The Wildcats knew going into the game they’d have to get pressure on Warriors standout quarterback Mitch Wear, and they succeeded in invading his comfort zone all evening. Caleb James, a junior, had three of those sacks, Paradies and sophomore Wyatt Rook had two each, and Chase Drake got one.
“We thought that if we played physical football we’d be able to out man them, Wildcats coach Jimmy DuShane said. “I felt like we had them defended pretty well.”
The route could have been greater for the Wildcats, too. They had two touchdowns called back due to penalty and lost four fumbles in the game. But even those mistakes couldn’t muddy this landslide.
Running that ball is paramount for the Wildcats, and they did it well against the Warriors. The Wildcats ran for 340 yards as a team.
Zach Renfro carried the ball 30 times for 217 yards, two touchdowns, and a two-point conversion. Bien had 53 yards on 15 carries with a touchdown and a conversion run. Paradies had 51 yards on 11 carries.
Jake Goade and Cooper Cianci also scored touchdowns for the Wildcats.
“I want to give my assistant (coaches) some credit,” Wildcats coach Jimmy DuShane said. “Again, they did a great job getting the kids prepared this week, and came up with a great game plan for us to be successful.”
Aside from the turnovers, the Wildcats, who led 20-12 at halftime, only punted once in the game.
It’s probably safe to say the Wildcats are on a roll.
“The kids are really starting to believe in what we’re doing, and they’re buying into what we’re trying to get them to do,” DuShane said. “I’m really impressed by the way the kids are turning things around and the progress we’re making.”
Page 2 of 2 - Diamond (3-3) entertains Greenfield on Friday.