Monett is coming off a 3-7 season in 2010. The Cubs look to build on the foundation that second year head coach Chad Depee established
"We have a very challenging schedule, but our boys are up to the task," said Depeť. "We will have to improve every week. The boys have had a great summer workout and now it's time to put the effort to work on the grid iron. The players are more comfortable with the scheme we run and that makes it easier to have quality practices."
Sponsored by 99.1 ESPN Radio's "The Ticket", the preseason coaches' poll was predictable at the top but held some surprises further down the list.
After two state championships and a semifinal appearance in the last three years, the Cassville Wildcats received most, but not all, of the first place votes in the poll and accumulated a total of 46 points. David Large's club has won 39 games in the past three seasons, and has lost only once in the regular season since wining that first state championship to cap the 2008 campaign.
The Wildcats, hit hard by graduation, still have a nucleus of skill players and linemen. The difference in this year's team will be depth, particularly in the line. Expect even more of Cassville's signature ball control running game this season, with Ricky Nichols directing a still-dangerous offense.
The Lamar Tigers received two first place votes and 43 total poll points to earn the second spot. Scott Bailey is working to develop a program at Lamar, and the Tigers are right on track. Last year's squad featured a mammoth line and good depth. Key injuries in the backfield thwarted Lamar's conference hopes in midseason, but the foundation has been laid.
Lamar is hungry for another deep run in the Class 2 playoffs. Three playoff wins in 2010 vaulted the Tigers into the semi-finals game where they fell to Maplewood-Richmond Heights, 33-19.
Aurora broke from the gate last year with a 5-1 record, losing only to eventual conference champ Cassville, 34-6 in week four. But after beating Monett by a 28-20 score, the Houns' slid to a 1-3 finish of a 6-4 season. Wins over Lamar and Monett showed the steady improvement of the Aurora program under Coach Rick Sholten.
Mt. Vernon was great at home but terrible on the road in 2010. Joy Mayberry's team did not lose at Mountaineer Stadium in four tries, but notched only one road victory in a 5-6 season. The Mountaineers played arguably the toughest regular season schedule of any Big 8 team last year, losing to Logan-Rogersville, Seneca, Cassville, and Springfield Catholic. Mt. Vernon's season ended with a 19-16 loss to Rogersville in the first round of the Class 3 playoffs.
The Mountaineers are a dangerous team, and are rightly picked in the top tier of the Big 8.
The Seneca Indians slip to the fifth spot in the poll. Rob Townsend has stepped won as the head coach at Seneca after driving the Indians back into contention. Dan Scheible takes over a program that has replaced Monett in recent years as Cassville's main contender for the conference crown.
Carl Junction, picked seventh and the lone Class 4 team in the conference, stumbled to a 1-9 season in Jesse Wall's first year as head coach. The Bulldogs have nowhere to go but up, but the cellar steps present a challenging climb against the quality teams of the Big 8.
East Newton, picked eighth in the conference also went 1-9 in 2010, after posting an identical record in 2009. Bobby Bishop takes over for Tom Ellis in Granby this year. The Patriots have some good young talent coming up but are still a season or two away from a break even season.