By Richard Polen
Globe Sports Writer
CASSVILLE, Mo. —
Quarterback Gabe Kirk scored three touchdowns and passed for another as Cassville remained unbeaten by defeating Seneca 48-13 Wednesday night in a Class 3 district semifinal.
Kirk, a sophomore, scored on touchdown runs of 36 and 7 yards and threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Stone Phelps as the Wildcats built a 28-7 halftime lead.
Cassville (11-0) will play Monett (8-3) for the district championship Monday at Cassville. Monett defeated Reeds Spring 35-6 in the other district semifinal.
Cassville rushed for 292 yards on 48 attempts, including a 62-yard touchdown run on an option by Kirk on the second play of the second half.
“We work on that every day,’’ said Kirk, who led the Wildcats with 99 yards on nine carries. “I saw the linebacker was playing out, so I took it inside and I had a really good block on the edge.’’
His blocker on the play, Stone Phelps, had given Cassville a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter with a 27-yard touchdown reception on slant across the middle of the field.
Meanwhile, Cassville’s defense limited Seneca to two first downs on the Indians’ first five possessions. Seneca finished with 128 yards rushing on 28 carries, including 12 yards on nine carries by junior Braxton Graham, who came into the game with 1,268 rushing yards this season.
“It was up front on defense,’’ said junior linebacker Hayden Prater, who was the defensive player of the year in the Big 8 Conference. “Our defensive line was blowing them up and weren’t letting their blockers get to us.’’
Trailing 21-0, Seneca drove 63 yards in six plays and scored on an eight-yard touchdown pass to Graham from quarterback Payton Rawlins with 1 minute, 50 seconds left in the first half.
Cassville answered with a quick six-play drive highlighted by a 22-yard screen pass to Prater and a 16-yard strike to Brent Thompson. On first-and-goal from the 7, Kirk scored on a draw play that stretched Cassville’s lead to 28-7.
“Our defensive coordinator (Lance Parnell) did a good job of scheming to get more pressure on Rawlins,’’ said Cassville head coach David Large. “Coach (Clay) Weldy is our offensive coordinator. I felt like he did a good job of mixing our plays early, staying on the attack and being aggressive.’’
The Wildcats stayed with their ground attack in the second half. A deflected pass and interception by defensive end Logan Scott led to a 1-yard touchdown run by Brent Thompson late in the third quarter. A 56-yard run by Phelps on an inside reverse set up Cassville’s last touchdown, a 7-yard run by Thompson with 9:23 remaining.
Seneca scored on the first play of the fourth quarter when a 12-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Skaggs from Rawlins capped a seven-play, 75-yard drive that made it 41-13.
“I don’t think we ever matched their intensity,’’ said Seneca head coach Dan Scheible. “They captured the offensive and defensive lines tonight. We tried to change our pass protection, but they just kept coming over the top.”
Cassville took a 7-0 lead on its first possession, which ended with Kirk's 36-yard touchdown run on an option play.
Rawlins completed 14 of 25 passes for 139 yards.
before he was removed from the game midway through the fourth quarter after he was slow to recover from a Cassville sack.