By Justin Sampson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Lance Parnell believes Cassville may have lost a bit of its physical identity in 2017, but the Wildcats were still a problem for opponents on a weekly basis.
Cassville went 7-4 last year, falling to COC Small Champion Reeds Spring in the second round of district play. Two other losses came to then-undefeated Seneca and Lamar.
“We felt like that was a downfall for us last year,” he said. “That has been a focus all offseason. I think our kids have done a nice job of getting bigger and stronger.”
15 starters are back from that squad (eight on offense and seven on defense) which made for a smoother transition back to camp over the summer.
“With so many returning starters, both sides of the ball are progressing nicely,” said Parnell. “The knowledge retention has been good.”
The roster is adorned with 18 seniors, including quarterback Shannon Haney. He put together an all-conference campaign as a punter in 2017, but is more solidified under center than any quarterback Parnell has coached. He got the job midway through his freshman year and accounted for 10 touchdowns and 1,838 total yards as a junior.
Seniors Anthony Tolbert and Logan Carlin also return to the backfield after compiling 1,311 yards and 17 touchdowns as a tandem one year ago. Tolbert, an All-Big 8 Second Team selection, will also be an anchor in the linebacking corps.
The bulk of the front seven is back, led by Zack Burton, another four-year starter. He earned an honorable mention for all-conference as a junior for his work in the trenches. He will be flanked by plenty of experience up front with Jacob Boyer, Mason Hendricks, and Jesus Perez.
DJ White is the lone First Team All-Big 8 selection after a breakout sophomore campaign. He hauled in 21 passes for six touchdowns and a team-high 510 yards. He also expects to move from cornerback to safety to fill one of the two vacant spots at that position.
All-Region tight end Austin Sanders and receiver Bowen Preddy, both seniors, will also be go-to targets for Haney. Preddy led the team with 24 catches last season to go with 370 yards and five scores.
There will be new tests on the 2018 schedule including Nevada, now a West Division member, and a non-conference showdown with Springfield Catholic in Week 2. Cassville will need to hearken back to its physical reputation in order to compete with them along with another stacked lineup of conference foes.
“That’s what we’ve done for the 21 years I’ve been here,” said Parnell. “We’ve got to get back to that and that’s something we really won’t know about until we get after it in August.”