CASSVILLE – The defense of the Cassville Comets has proven time and time again to be one of the stingiest units in the Six Rivers conference this year, and they did little to tarnish that image in a 7-2 upset victory over visiting Black Hawk last Friday night.
In a low-scoring power struggle for position, neither team mounted a whole lot of offense Friday night, but both team’s displayed their power on the defensive side of the ball.
“I was very happy with the defense, but offense and special teams need some special attention,” said Cassville coach Doug Fure.
“I was very happy with the way the defense played. Coach (Steve) Schauff had them ready to play. He’s done a good job the past couple of weeks of getting them ready,” Fure added.
For Black Hawk coach Cory Milz, nearly the exact sentiment was expressed following the game.
“It was a tough loss,” Milz said. “We couldn’t overcome the loss of some key playmakers. Our defense played well, but we had some key penalties that negated some scores and big runs. We had to have perfect execution to overcome the loss of personnel and we failed to do that.”
The losses coach Milz was referring to included receiver Hayden Schliem, offensive lineman Mike Powers, quarterback Merik Meythaler and running back Michael Walker.
Meythaler and Walker were both injured early in Friday night’s game and did not return, while Powers missed the game with a torn ACL and Schliem was available, but did not play much.
The Warriors finished the game with 153 yards rushing and 11 yards through the air, while the Comets had 169 yards on the ground and 16 through the air.
Cassville’s only score of the game was set up by a fumble recover by Chance Clauer at the Black Hawk 42-yard line with 2:06 to play in the first quarter.
The Comets got a one-yard gain from Dallas Bernhardt, followed by a 41-yard TD run by Nate Baliff. The extra-point kick by Garrett Schauff gave Cassville a 7-0 lead with 1:26 remaining in the opening quarter.
Black Hawk followed with a 10-play drive that covered 50 yards, but was limited by 25 yards of penalties, including a 15-yarder that negated a 24-yard TD on a halfback option pass.
Faced with a third-and-24 from Cassville’s 39-yard line after the penalty, the Warriors lost their second fumble of the game, which was recovered by Cassville’s Jacob Haas.
The Comets then put together a 12-play drive that set them up with a first-and-goal from the three-yard line.
On first down, Cassville had a five-yard false-start penalty that made it first-and-goal from the eight.
Four straight running plays failed to put any points on the board, as the Black Hawk defense held strong on a fourth-and-goal from the two with 2:32 to play in the first half.
On the ensuing possession, Black Hawk had three false start penalties on a seven-play drive that ended in an interception with 19.5 seconds remaining in the half.
Neither team could move the ball offensively in the third quarter, but with just over a minute to play in the quarter, Cuyler Meier for Black Hawk blocked a punt, which was recovered on the Cassville 45-yard line.
The Warriors couldn’t turn the good field position into points, as Cassville’s defense forced yet another three-and-out.
Both teams traded punts throughout the early portions of the fourth quarter before the real fireworks began in the final five minutes.
Faced with a fourth-and-two from their own 40 yard line, Cassville had another punt blocked, this time by Logan Stietz.
After kicking it around for awhile, the Comets recovered it at their own nine yard line, setting Black Hawk up with a golden opportunity.
On first-and-goal from the nine, Jace Johnsrud picked up three yards. He got the ball again on second down and picked up five more.
Faced with a third-and-goal from the one, Johnsrud got the call again and was stopped inches short of the goal line.
On fourth-and-goal from just outside the goal line, the Cassville defense stuffed Johnsrud on his fourth straight carry, turning the ball over on downs with 3:19 to play in the game.
With a 7-0 lead deep in their own territory, Cassville had two objectives, 1. Hang on to the ball, and 2. Keep the clock running.
The Comets managed to push the ball out to the five-yard line on three running plays, and on fourth-and-six from the five, elected to have Garrett Schauff take a knee in the end zone, rather than punt the ball away.
“With those two blocked punts and the field position that we gave up, it was just very impressive that the defense was able to hold as well as it was,” said coach Fure.
“It was fourth-and-six or something like that, and they had already blocked two punts. And so coach Schauff and I kind of looked at each other and we made the decision to take the safety there.”
With 1:41 to play in the game, the Comets kicked off to the Warriors, who had a hard time fielding the ball.
Black Hawk took over at the 36-yard line with 1:36 showing on the clock, but turned the ball over on a second-and-six pass play from the 40, when Kyle Walters was attempting to throw the ball away to avoid a sack, and was ruled a fumble, recovered by Cassville.
It was senior Dakota Bernhardt who led the Cassville rushing attack with 94 yards on nine carries, while twin brother Dallas managed 36 yards on 16 attempts. Nate Baliff finished with 39 yards and the team’s only TD on three carries.
Garrett Schauff completed 3-of-4 passing attempts for 16 yards, Dallas pulling in one reception for nine of those.
Defensively, Cassville was led by Dakota Bernhardt, who had 14 total tackles. Schauff was close behind with 11, while Chance Clauer added 10 to go along with one sack and one fumble recovery.
Cassville had five sacks on the night, two by Chris Meier and one each for Adam Kirschbaum, Chance Clauer, Jacob Haas and Codi Schwab. Haas also had two fumble recoveries, while Meier and Clauer each had one.
Now 4-3 in league play and 4-3 overall, the Comets are in good position to receive a playoff bid, something they haven’t had since 2000.
“I told the guys in the huddle after the game that we are playoff eligible, not playoff guaranteed,” said coach Fure. “I guess the next goal obviously is to become playoff guaranteed and then with any luck maybe get enough wins to host a playoff game.”
The Comets can become playoff guaranteed this Saturday if they defeat Highland, and they will wrap up the regular season against a tough Seneca team next Friday night at home.
Cassville 7, Black Hawk 2
(from Friday, Sept. 30)
Black Hawk 0 0 0 2 - 2
Cassville 7 0 0 0 - 0
C - Nate Baliff, 41-yard run (Garrett Schauff kick)
BH - Cassville took a knee in the end zone during a punt.
First downs - BH 9, C 6. Rushing - BH 39-153, C 40-169. Passing yards - BH 11, C 16. Passes - BH 3-12-1, C 3-4-0. Fumbles lost - BH 5-4, C 2-1. Penalties-yards - BH 10-80, C 3-25.
Rushing - BH: Michael Walker 11-98; C: Dakota Bernhardt 9-94, Dallas Bernhardt 16-36, Nate Baliff 3-39. Passing - BH: n/a: Garrett Schauff 3-4-0, 16. Receiving - BH: Cory Rupnow 3-11; C: Dallas Bernhardt 1-9.