By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Cassville, Mo. — Over the past two seasons, Mt. Vernon has become pretty comfortable in the district underdog role.
After riding three-straight upsets to a 2017 title, lightning struck again for the Mt’Neers in a 34-14 victory over previously-undefeated Cassville in Friday’s Class 3 District 6 championship.
Mt. Vernon controlled the line of scrimmage throughout the contest and racked up 350 yards of total offense. The Mt’Neers also forced four Cassville turnovers.
Will Boswell rushed for 115 yards on 23 carries and scored three touchdowns.
‘Neers head coach Tom Cox was pleased with his team’s performance against a stingy Cassville defense.
“The thing that surprised me most was how we ran the ball against (Cassville),” Cox said. “People have not been able to do that this year. For us to do that gave us great confidence. Even though we turned it over a couple times late, we just felt like all the momentum was there, and we were not going to be denied.”
After scoring first on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Zach Jones to Rafe Darter, Mt. Vernon quickly found itself in a hole as Cassville came storming back with two scores of its own in the second quarter.
Wildcats quarterback Shannon Haney scored on a 10-yard rush early in the quarter, followed by a 28-yard touchdown strike to DJ White.
Up 14-6, Cassville received a golden opportunity when a halfback pass from Boswell was intercepted by Jonny Medina late in the half.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, a fumble on the very next play immediately turned the ball back over.
Four plays later, Boswell scored on a 2-yard run — and subsequent conversion — to tie the score at 14-14 heading into the half.
The back-to-back turnover tradeoff seemed to light a spark in both Boswell and the ‘Neers, who dominated the line of scrimmage in the second half.
“I threw the interception there,” Boswell said. “Oh my gosh, I was so mad, and then we went back and got a fumble. They couldn’t stop our offense. We were stopping ourselves when we had to punt and stuff.”
Coach Cox was thrilled to have momentum riding into the second half.
“That was really big for us,” Cox said. “To come back after being down, get the touchdown and then, get the two-point conversion. We’ve not had a great percentage on our two-point conversions, and to be able to get that really gave us the momentum going into halftime.”
The third quarter turned out to be huge for Mt. Vernon, as the ‘Neers found the end zone three times following another back-to-back run of turnovers from both teams.
Cox felt the momentum shift after the turnover was a crucial turning point in the game.
“You could see body language change both places,” Cox said. “Our guys just felt the energy, and Will really pounded it hard. Then, we came back late with Carson Bowman in a little bit of a change of pace with Will lead-blocking for him. We didn’t get the score there, but we chewed up a lot of clock and put them in a bind three scores down.”
Boswell scored on a 13-yard touchdown run, then added another from one yard out.
Late in the quarter, Cale Miller helped seal the victory with a 30-yard interception return for Mt. Vernon’s fifth touchdown of the game.
After the game, Cox was quick to credit Boswell’s determination on both sides of the ball for spearheading the Mt. Vernon attack.
“That’s what we do,” Cox said. “We have a deal — and I have to keep reminding myself — players, not plays. (Boswell) is a player, and we do put the team on his back on both sides of the ball. We ask a lot from him, and he’s been kind of beaten up just taking the pounding offensively. It’s probably affected his numbers on defense, but it’s sure made a difference for us on offense.”
Cassville finishes its season with an 11-1 record.
The Wildcats rolled up 293 yards of total offense (111 rushing, 182 passing).
Up next for Mt. Vernon (11-1) is a quarterfinal round matchup against Springfield Catholic. The Mountaineers will host the game next Friday.
Class 3 District 6 Championship: Mt. Vernon – 34, Cassville – 14
Mt. Vernon 6 8 20 0 — 34
Cassville 0 14 0 0 — 14
First quarter scoring
Mt. Vernon – Rafe Darter 8-yard TD pass from Zach Jones (conversion failed) 0-6
Second quarter scoring
Cassville – Shannon Haney 10-yard TD rush (Drake Reese kick) 7-6
Cassville – DJ White 28-yard TD pass from Haney (Reese kick) 14-6
Mt. Vernon – Will Boswell 2-yard TD rush (Boswell 2-pt rush) 14-14
Third quarter scoring
Mt. Vernon – Boswell 13-yard TD rush (conversion failed) 20-14
Mt. Vernon – Boswell 1-yard TD rush (conversion failed) 26-14
Mt. Vernon – Cale Miller 30-yard INT TD return (Miller 2-pt pass from Jones) 34-14