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Monday, May 2, 2016

Stakes are high as gridiron rivals meet

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Support for the Cubs. Monett's Devon Overall encourages the Cubs' fans to make some noise during the game against Aurora. Monett fans are emplored to provide a home field advantage tonight as the Cubs host the Cassville Wildcats. [Times Photo by Melissa Leech]
"The next game on the schedule is always the biggest game of the year." Many football coaches love to say.

Nowhere will those words of wisdom ring truer than on the gridiron of Burl Fowler Stadium, tonight as the Monett Cubs (4-1, 3-1) and number 3 state-ranked Cassville Wildcats (5-0, 3-0) prepare to rumble.

Both squads are coming off impressive victories in week four. The Wildcats earned a 34-24 victory over Carl Junction and Monett scored a 21-0 win over Aurora.

Alot riding on their shoulders. The Monett Cubs' offensive unit has improved every week this season. Tonight, the Cubs will face a stiff challenge by a highly praised Cassville Wildcats' defense. [Times Photo by Melissa Leech]
As dominate as any team can be on the football field, Cassville has cast a large shadow over the Big 8 Conference winning 26 consecutive conference games and 29 consecutive against conference opponents when you factor in the playoffs.

Even more impressive is the manner in which Cassville has prevailed in its streak.

The Wildcats have outscored their Big 8 competition 1,032-240 or an average of 35.8 to 8.2 per contest.

A 13-7 loss to Monett, on Oct. 17, 2008, was the last time the Wildcats tasted defeat against a conference foe.

"I think you really have to credit our coaching staff and their ability to develop these young athletes," said Cassville coach David Large. "We start when these young men are freshmen and we coach them with the same expectations that we have for our varsity team. We try to create a fun environment that permits the athlete to grow."

Another aspect Cassville has had great success in, is finding suitable replacements for athletes that have graduated. Over the years, it seems like more of a reloading program than rebuilding one.

This season, the Wildcats have employed their typical running back by committee format.

Brent Thompson has earned 428 yards on 64 carries for five touchdowns. Chris Dunker has added 65 carries for 394 yards and five scores, and Hayden Prater adds 165 yards on 45 carries.

Cassville is averaging 267.2 yards rushing and 56.6 yards passing per game.

"Our defense and special teams play has been really good this season," said Large. "Our offense has been up and down. We know we will have our hands full."

In last year's gridiron grudge match, the Wildcats amassed 286 yards rushing and handed the Cubs a 28-6 loss.

"On tape, Monett looks quicker on defense," said Large. "They are aggressive and fly to the ball really well."

Large also commented on the Cubs' running back tandem.

"I said for years that Aaron Hall is a Wildcat running back living in Monett. He is the kind of runner that you can build a program around," said Large. "Kurran Blamey is a speedster that can score anytime he has the ball. Together they are difficult to stop."

Monett charges into the pigskin fray on the heels of a four-game winning streak.

Last weeks, solid victory hushed a few of the scoffers. A win this week would silence them altogether.

"Cassville is a good squad," said Monett coach Chad Depée. "You have to give them the proper respect they've earned. Cassville has been good for a while and it will be a battle."

The Cubs have averaged rushing for 258.4 and 80.6 yards passing per game.

"Defensively, we continue to be a very physical unit," said Depée. "We played well at Aurora and now we have to continue that trend."

Keys for Cassville success

* Be physical. The Wildcats want to control the line of scrimmage. They have made a living pushing Big 8 lines around.

* No mistakes. Cassville can't afford to give Monett extra possessions. They must also pick up the Cubs' blitz.

* Contain the plays. The Cubs have big play potential. Potential, not reality is all the Wildcats want to see tonight.

The keys for Monett are similar

* Play keep away. In Monett's four victories the Cubs have controlled the time-of-possession. Monett held the ball for two-thirds of the second half against Aurora. Any drive lasting five minutes or longer against the Wildcats, should be worth three mental points.

* Do your homework. The Cubs' defense must follow and execute their assignments; otherwise they'll see Cassville celebrating on their home turf.

* Receive some home cooking. The Monett fans need to make the atmosphere at Burl Fowler Stadium electric. "Any time you have a large crowd cheering you on, it helps," said Depée.

"We'll have to channel our emotion and give the crowd something to cheer about."

* Believe. Against Aurora, Monett players, especially the offensive and defensive lines got stronger as the game wore on. "We have told our boys that someone has got to beat Cassville," said Depée. "It might as well be us."

Due to the expected large turnout, Monett High School has asked that fans arrive early to the game to assure a seat.

Gates will open at 5:30 p.m., with kickoff scheduled at 7 p.m.

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