CASSVILLE, Mo. — With former Cassville all-state quarterback Ricky Nichols now behind center at Missouri Southern State University, the Wildcats plan to be more deceptive than they were a year ago.
Running backs Chris Dunker, Brent Thompson, Chase Jackson, Hayden Prater and even wide receiver Stone Phelps put Branson in a guessing game in a 48-7 no-contest Cassville victory on Friday.
The Wildcats’ assortment of misdirection plays had the Pirates at times tackling everyone but the ball-carrier.
“We’re changing some things, trying to spread the field out more,” said Dunker, who had the game’s first two touchdown runs. “We’re trying to look more deceptive, so we can shoot off the edges or run up the middle without the defense realizing who has (the ball).
“We’ve also worked on staying low in the backfield, so it’s harder to see us over our offensive linemen. We made plays at the offensive line and in the backfield tonight. That’s all we can ask for.”
Cassville annually has had misdirection plays in its playbook and fellow Big 8 Conference member Lamar played the deception game all the way to the Class 2 state championship last season. But Branson defenders don’t see similar offenses week after week in the COC Large Schools Division, where power and speed reign.
The Pirates’ defenders were off balance, never assured enough to get in attack mode.
“Cassville had four guys coming out of the backfield and we’re not used to seeing that,” Pirates cornerback DaQuan Ervin said. “With a lot of guys coming at you like that, it makes it harder for you to find the ball.”
“We’d seen that before from them and worked on it,” coach Steve Hancock added. “But they executed very well and threw a lot of stuff at us. That misdirection stuff, you can’t take your eyes off the ball.”
Cassville unleashed Dunker on a direct snap to him in the second quarter. He was never challenged on his way to a 62-yard touchdown run.
“I was thinking, ‘All right, I’m going to get the ball and hopefully make something happen’ to give us a bigger lead than we already had,” Dunker said. “We had practiced that play pretty hard in practices and it’s looked good. It was a beautiful play by our linemen. I was untouched.
“I was actually nervous. I’ve never been a quarterback. Leaning over and catching the snap can be difficult.”
“I’ve felt like we can always put that in our back pocket and pull it out,” coach David Large added.
Cassville enjoyed a 28-point third quarter.
In addition to Dunker scoring twice, Thompson and Jackson both had a pair of touchdowns. Phelps broke loose for a 45-yard run to set up a five-yard touchdown run by Prater. Phelps and Dunker are seniors, Jackson and Prater are juniors and Thompson is a sophomore.
“We run a lot of looks at you,” Large said. “It gives you more to prepare for against us during the week and not be able to pinpoint one thing.”
Branson’s offense never got on track. The Pirates didn’t pose much of a threat, after losing running back Isaiah Daniels with a bruised right shoulder in the second quarter. He never returned and had his arm in a sling after the game.
“We were searching for something offensively all night,” Hancock said. “We never controlled the line of scrimmage. When you can’t get movement up front, that makes it very difficult. They took us to the woodshed.”