On Missouri high school football district championship night, no team in the Show-Me State is more rested than Cassville.
When the Wildcats entertain Mount Vernon in the Class 3 District 6 title game tonight at 7, it will be their first action in three weeks.
"Twenty days without a game since we played," coach Lance Parnell said. "We've done a lot of practicing. We went to Mount Vernon (last Friday night) and watched Mount Vernon-Seneca after we found out we were not going to play Reeds Spring. At least we got to go watch a game on Friday night."
As the district's top seed, the Wildcats (8-2) received a first-round bye in the six-team bracket. Then last week's semifinal game was canceled because of coronavirus complications at Reeds Spring.
"It is what it is," Parnell said. "We can't worry about it. We were able to use the bye week as a tuneup week to refocus on fundamentals, things you don't get to do once the season gets started. Last week was a normal week because we didn't find out until Thursday we were not playing. This week has been a normal prep week as well. Hopefully the kids come out fresh and ready to play."
Second-seeded Mount Vernon (5-5) also had a first-round bye and blanked Seneca 42-0 last week to snap a five-game losing streak.
"It was a huge win," Mountaineers coach Tom Cox said. "We played really well, played with a lot of emotion. I'm super proud of the guys for stepping up when they did. We had been so close so many times (three losses by one touchdown) this year in the kind of games the last few years have gone our way just went the other way this year. It would have been super easy — especially for the seniors — to just check it in, but they did exactly the opposite."
The game is a rematch of the season opener that saw Mount Vernon score in the final minute to beat the Wildcats 21-13.
"You look at the first game, it was a great game, well-played for the first game of the year," Cox said. "It came down to that last play with 13 seconds to play when Rafe Darter went up in the middle of several Cassville players and came down with Mason Ballay's pass.
"But the script is kind of flipped because the first week they didn't have Zach Coenen (running back) and now this time we don't have Rafe Darter. It's going to be a big challenge for us. We have some injuries and some quarantines, and we have to play at Cassville, which is always a tough place to play. But we are extremely thankful that we're getting to play, and we're going to make the most of it."
SARCOXIE AT LAMAR
Lamar (8-1) goes after its 13th consecutive district title tonight when it plays host to Sarcoxie (6-4) in Class 2 District 4.
The Tigers, who won the Big 8 Conference West Division based on their head-to-head victory over Cassville, have won six straight since their 42-41 loss at McDonald County on Sept. 11.
"The key to our success in my opinion has been our emphasis on fundamentals as far as blocking and tackling," coach Jared Beshore said. "I think we block and tackle really well, and that's because of what we've been able to do in practice on a daily basis. ... And being physical, in most cases if you are the more physical team, you're going to win the football game."
Sarcoxie has won six of seven games since an 0-3 start.
"We figured some things out," Bears coach Russell Ellis said. "We're young this year and have played a lot of kids with not a lot of varsity experience. We've had a year of injury proneness.
"I think it's a testament to our kids and them having grit and maturing. Our seniors and our captains kept their nose to the grindstone and really worked hard on turning the corner. And our coaches have done a phenomenal job, getting our kids where they need to be successful and preaching the next-man-up mentality because literally that's what we've had to live by."
Looking to tonight's game, "Coach Beshore and the staff at Lamar have it going," Ellis said. "Obviously their record speaks for itself. They have a lot of good football players. The quarterback (Case Tucker) is really good, and they have a defensive tackle (Rylan Wooldridge) who is a gigantic specimen and does a good job on defense. The safety (Austin Wilkerson) is another really good player, and the conference they are in definitely prepares them for the playoffs."
"We look for a very disciplined, physical football team to show up out of Sarcoxie," Beshore said. "They are well-coached, and they run their flexbone-veer offense very well. They also do some things defensively that are tough to defend as far as blitz packages and man coverage. We anticipate a very hard-fought game and a physical game, which is the type of football game we like to have."
LOCKWOOD AT MARIONVILLE
In another rematch from early in the season, second-seeded Lockwood (9-1) travels to top-seeded Marionville (11-0) to decide Class 1 District 4.
Marionville prevailed 35-20 in the third week of the season in the game that determined the Southwest Conference title.
"They really like to run the football," Lockwood coach Clay Lasater said. "Their line really gets off the ball well and plays hard, and they have a running back (Dakota Wilson) who pound-for-pound is a super strong kid and averages around 200 yards a game. He's always falling forward, spinning through tackles, getting extra yards. It's tough to get them off the field. They also are good tacklers. They are aggressive to the football defensively and have a really good linebacker corps."
Lockwood quarterback Max Schnelle has accounted for almost 2,000 yards and 31 touchdowns with 550 yards and 15 TDs rushing and hitting 83-of-130 passes for 1,426 yards and 16 TDs. Running back Jamie Kramer has 437 yards in only four games and averages 9.3 yards per carry, and Lane Dunlap has 505 yards and eight TDs rushing and 112 tackles and four interceptions as the middle linebacker.