CASSVILLE, Mo. — Missouri Class 3 will have a new state champion in 2019.
D.J. White, Andrew Prier and the rest of the Cassville defense made sure of it Saturday afternoon at Wildcat Stadium.
The Wildcats created three turnovers and stopped Trinity Catholic inside the Cassville 10-yard line three times while earning a 13-0 victory over the Titans.
Cassville (12-2) will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of its second state championship next Saturday in Columbia in the title game at 11 a.m. The Wildcats will battle Odessa after the Bulldogs' 31-14 victory over Kennett in the other semifinal.
Trinity (9-4) had more first downs (19-6), more yards of total offense (289-160) and more offensive plays (72-40), but special teams and defense made the difference for Cassville.
White, a senior safety, intercepted two passes in the end zone. Prier, a senior defensive end, had two tackles for loss, including a sack and forced fumble in the third quarter that allowed Cassville to extend its lead.
“It was an unbelievable effort defensively," Cassville coach Lance Parnell said. "They had their backs to the wall three different times and they had no quit in them. They found ways to get stops.
“A lot of credit goes to our (defensive) ends and tackle. We’re a four-man front team and we had a plan A and plan B and we had to go to plan B with a three-man front a little sooner than we wanted to because of what they were wanting to do in the perimeter run game. But our guys up front found a way to bottle up their inside run game and allowed our linebackers to contain the perimeter run plays.”
Trinity, which averaged 35.5 points through 12 games, was turned away inside the Cassville 10 on its first two possessions of the game. White intercepted Trinity quarterback Chris Cotton to thwart the first Titan possession and his second interception in the end zone with 1:22 left sealed the victory.
“On the first interception, we were in man coverage and I saw their quarterback scramble and my guy went toward the inside and I stayed, waited, jumped up and caught it,” White said. “The second one, I knew I had to jump high to get it, but once I tipped it, I knew I had it.
“Our secondary was up to the challenge today. We expected them to throw the ball a lot, but to limit them to nine completions on 31 attempts, our defense made plays when we had to.”
Trinity’s longest play of the day, a 51-yard completion from Cotton to Scott Presson Jr., gave the Titans the ball at the Cassville 3-yard line with a second left before the half, but Trinity was out of timeouts and time expired before the Titans could get a snap off.
Cassville took advantage of a special teams mistake to score its only touchdown. On fourth down-and-12 at the Trinity 31, a low snap to punter Chris Moore rolled past him down to the Trinity 9 where he picked it up and was quickly brought down by Jericho Farris.
Three plays later, senior quarterback Deven Bates scored on a one-yard sneak. Drake Reese added the PAT and the Wildcats led 7-0 with 7:47 left in the third quarter.
A 21-yard completion from Cotton to Luke Wilson put Trinity at the Cassville 39. On first down, Prier came free on a blitz and forced a second Titan turnover.
“Coaches called a stunt and I told our linebacker I would hold up (the offensive tackle) that he had coming to me every time,” Prier said. “This time he went for the linebacker and it gave me a lane to the quarterback and I thought he had thrown the ball, then I saw it lying on the ground and I realized I had gotten to him in time.
“We were physical with them the entire game. The field conditions caused their backs some problems slipping, and they played to our advantage.”
Senior defensive tackle Jacob Hall recovered the fumble at the Cassville 48 and the Wildcats ran the ball eight plays to reach the Trinity 16 where junior kicker Reese, with the wind at his back, blasted a 33-yard field goal on the final play of the third quarter for a 10-0 lead.
Trinity went four-and-out on its next two possessions. Cassville used the second stop to move the ball to the Trinity 15 and set up Reese for another 33-yard field goal attempt, this time into the wind.
With a steady wind out of the south at 15-20 mph all day, Killian Barbee had the snap, Bates the hold and Reese booted a kick that sailed up and gained altitude into the wind, but it carried over the crossbar for a 13-0 lead.
“My personal best is 48. I think I could have beaten that today with the wind,” Reese said. “The first 33-yard kick was easy, no pressure. I was nervous on the second one knowing the wind would grab it. I knew I could make it. I just wasn’t sure what the wind would do with it.”
Said Parnell: “That was a heckuva kick. We trust him and he has been money all year and he was again today. That kick into the wind, I saw the wind grab and it sailed high. He nailed it, but I wasn’t sure if the wind wouldn’t push it back.”
Junior fullback Zach Coenen led Cassville with 104 yards on 11 carries, including a 68-yard run in the second quarter. Senior tailback Bowen Preddy finished with 41 yards on 16 carries.