The Cassville Wildcats picked a dandy time to play their best football game of the season.
Sporting an aggressive offensive attack and a seemingly airtight defense, the Wildcats took charge from the very beginning and put Seneca away 48-13 in Wednesday’s Class 3, District 4 semifinal at Wildcat Stadium.
The end result was a far cry from the Wildcats’ 18-14 triumph at Seneca in the fourth week of the regular season. That game came down to a late turnover that sparked a Wildcats comeback. This time around, they took the lead early and never looked back.
After forcing the Indians on a three-and-out on the first drive of the game, the Wildcats put together a five-play, 62 yard drive that covered less than two minutes and was capped on a 26 yard quarterback keeper by Garrett Kirk to make it 7-0. The Indians would get deep in Wildcats’ territory on their next two possessions, but turned the ball over on downs both times.
Cassville capitalized on the second of those turnovers. This time the Wildcats put together a nine-play, 72 yard drive capped on a 27 yard pass from Kirk to Stone Phelps to make it 14-0. Seneca would respond by stuffing the Wildcats on fourth down on their next offensive possession to get the ball back, but Cassville’s Cody Frana picked off a pass on the Indians’ next play from scrimmage and returned it to the 34.
From there the Wildcats needed just five plays to make it 21-0 on a three yard scamper by Hayden Prater. The route was on, but it was more about how well the Wildcats were playing than anything the Indians were doing wrong.
Asked if this was indeed Cassville’s best performance of the season, Wildcats coach David Large wasted little time in responding, “Yes sir, yes sir. I felt like we played very well tonight, really, offensively and defensively. Offensively we were able to move the ball, (Kirk) had by far his best game, and then on defense, the first game we didn’t feel like we got enough pressure on (Indians quarterback Payton) Rawlins, but tonight I think we hurried some throws and that played a big difference.”
Perhaps the biggest key for the Wildcats was that pressure. The Indians still managed to get their many weapons in the mix, but not consistently enough to make much of a difference.
“We don’t really blitz a whole lot, but we definitely wanted to bring some (blitzes) here and there to try and mess with their blocking schemes and stuff like that,” Large said.
Seneca got on the board for the first time when Braxton Graham hauled in a leaping grab in the end zone on an eight-yard pass from Rawlins to cut the deficit to 21-7 with 1:50 remaining before halftime. But the Wildcats would march back down the field and score again on a six yard run by Kirk with 30 seconds left in the half to make it 28-7 at the intermission.
Page 2 of 2 - Cassville’s lead would grow to 41-7 before Rawlins hit receiver Jalen Skaggs on a 12 yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter to make it 41-13. That would be all the Indians would get.
“They’re playoff tested,” Indians coach Dan Scheible said. “They’ve been through a lot of playoff football games and I just don’t think we ever matched their intensity level. We talked about through the year that whoever captures that offensive and defensive lines is probably going to win the football game, and they captured the offensive and defensive lines.”
Kirk rushed for 94 yards and three touchdowns and threw for 113 more and another score to lead the Wildcats offense. Tailback Brent Thompson was the leading rusher with 104 yards and two touchdowns.
Senior running back Marty Mailes led the charge for the Indians with 88 yards on the ground. Rawlins threw for 131 yards, two touchdowns and had two interceptions on the night. Skaggs had 50 yards receiving and a touchdown.