WARDSVILLE, Mo. — Two plays into Saturday’s Class 3 quarterfinal game against the Blair Oaks Falcons, the Cassville Wildcats found themselves trailing early for the second straight game.
There was no need for the Wildcats to panic, even while facing the No. 1-ranked team in the state.
Cassville answered with three straight scoring drives and never trailed after halftime, knocking off Blair Oaks 35-28 at the Falcon Athletic Complex and ending the Falcons’ 27-game winning streak.
“It’s awesome, absolutely awesome,” Cassville coach Lance Parnell said as the Wildcats will advance to the state semifinals for the first time since 2010. “Nobody expected us to be here at this point in time of the year, other than the group of young men that I had in the locker room all year long.
“To come out here against a very, very well-coached and good football team and come out with a win, it’s a heck of a day.”
Cassville (11-2), ranked No. 10 in Class 3, will host fourth-ranked Trinity Catholic (9-3) at 1 p.m. next Saturday in the semifinals. The Titans won 26-0 on Saturday in their semifinal game against St. Charles Lutheran.
Blair Oaks (12-1) scored on a 37-yard touchdown pass from Dylan Hair to Jake Closser less than 30 seconds into the game.
Cassville, which fell behind 14-0 against Seneca in the district championship game eight days earlier, answered with three straight scoring drives of nine plays or more, controlling the ball for nearly 18 of the 24 first-half minutes.
“We just did what we do, and that’s line up, run the football and try to be a physical team,” Parnell said.
Zach Coenen scored on a 2-yard run to tie the game at 7 with 7:08 left in the first quarter. Bowen Preddy followed with a 12-yard touchdown run to put the Wildcats ahead 13-7 early in the second quarter.
Preddy led Cassville with 219 yards rushing on 23 carries, while Coenen added 120 yards on 19 attempts.
“I thought we played really well up front,” Parnell said. “I thought our backs ran extremely hard and got some really, really tough yards.”
Quarterback Deven Bates scored on a 2-yard keeper during the final minute of the second quarter to give Cassville a 20-7 lead at halftime.
The Wildcats extended their first-half drives by converting on all five third-down plays, including a 35-yard pass from Bates to DJ White on third-and-8 that led to the touchdown right before halftime.
“We knew we had to move the ball offensively and keep their offense off the field as much as we could,” Parnell said.
Preddy ran back the kickoff 82 yards to begin the second half, giving Cassville its largest lead at 27-7. But the defending Class 2 state champion Falcons wouldn’t go down without a fight.
Blair Oaks responded with back-to-back touchdowns on runs of 10 and 9 yards by Hair, cutting the Cassville lead to 27-21 midway through the third quarter.
The Falcons were driving deep into Wildcat territory late in third quarter, but a holding penalty and a fumbled snap stalled a potential go-ahead scoring drive.
Preddy padded the Cassville lead with a 60-yard touchdown on a pitch-and-run with 6:01 left in the game. Jericho Farris ran in the 2-point conversion to make the score 35-21.
Hair scored his third rushing touchdown from 2 yards out on Blair Oaks’ next drive, but Cassville was able to run out the clock for the final four minutes to secure the win.
“I’m proud of our kids for not dropping their heads and showing a ton of grit and finding a way to get the win,” Parnell said.