By Mark Spillane & Chris Parker
Rankings and resumes don’t decide football games.
Players and coaches do.
Cassville proved that by taking down its second defending state champion in as many weeks by beating defending Class 3 state champion Trinity Catholic 13-0 to advance to the Class 3 state title game.
“We are playing for one more week,” Cassville head coach Lance Parnell said. “That has been our mindset since we started district play. Give us one more week. I told them before the ballgame I wasn’t done with them. I had one more week of work with them. They just do not get rattled.”
Cassville and Trinity were locked in a defensive struggle with the game tied 0-0 at half. Trinity threatened with time expiring in the first half but a Bowen Preddy tackle at the goal line as time ran down would keep the game scoreless at half.
The Wildcats would get on the scoreboard with 7:47 to go in the third quarter on a short touchdown run by quarterback Deven Bates. That score was setup thanks to a botched punt attempt by Trinity Catholic which Cassville the ball inside the Titan 15-yard line.
Cassville’s defense would hold the rest of the third quarter giving kicker Drake Reese a chance to extend the lead. Parnell called a timeout with 4.6 seconds left in the third quarter so Reese could kick with the wind. Reese rewarded the decision with a 33-yard field goal to make it 10-0 after three quarters.
Reese would hit another 33-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, this time against the wind, to get Cassville out to the final margin of 13-0.
“Drake is a weapon,” Parnell said. “Two field goals today, touchbacks keeping the ball out of their hands and then we asked him to pooch kick and he did that. He had a really big game for us.”
Cassville’s defense came up big in shutting out a Trinity Catholic team that came in averaging 31.6 points per game including one game where the Titans put up 90 points.
“(It) is just the heart of our kids. We have great senior leadership. They are going to give me everything they have every snap. They never get too high and never get too low,” Parnell said. “We had a few lows today. We talked about that before the game. We had to survive those and they did. They rallied back and found ways to get stops.”
Cassville got every big play it needed when it needed it to advance to the program’s first state title game since 2009.
“I am still a little numb right now. I don’t even know if I have words. What an unbelievable effort by all of our kids. What a great defensive effort. Our offense was very opportunistic and scored points when we had to and extended some drives when we had to. I thought our special teams was great. Talk about kids leaving everything on the field today and I think they did that and got a win,” Parnell said.
Cassville will face unbeaten Odessa for the Class 3 state championship at 11 a.m. next Saturday in Columbia.