Between the Big 8 Conference and Central Ozark Conference Small Division, southwest Missouri has provided Missouri Class 3 football with some of its better teams throughout the years.
In fact, as a nod to the local competitiveness in the class, the News-Leader used to break up its rankings: Large Schools, Small Schools, and Class 3 schools.
The group deserved that much attention.
So, for one upstart team in Monett to reach the semifinals and get dispatched 28-6 by the would-be state runner-up is a bit of a black mark season for this proud bunch.
Southwest Missouri had won three out of the four previous titles: Cassville in 2008 and ’09, and Rogersville in 2011.
Do any of this year’s local Class 3 teams have a great chance of bringing back the hardware to the region?
It appears not.
When I look at the Class 3 landscape this year, I see plenty of good teams.
I think there will be some really good COC Small battles as I don’t see a lot of separation in the Class 3 teams in that division.
I also think Cassville will be tested at times in its quest for a fifth straight Big 8 title with hopes of building on its conference win streak of 30 games.
As for District 3, Catholic and Rogersville are definitely in the championship discussion, as usual.
Osage also took a hit from its high-scoring offense, as quarterback Bo Dean has moved to Camdenton.
Eldon lost just 10 seniors from last year, and the defending champions go into this season as the favorites.
I like the Mustangs to top the Catholic Fightin’ Irish in the district final.
In District 4, Monett lost most of its impact players from last season’s semifinalists.
Thus, we’re ranking them fourth in the district this year.
Although I see the Big 8 streak getting snapped by Lamar this year, I like Cassville to still get the No. 1 seed in District 4.
I also see good seasons from Reeds Spring, which has some tough two-way players, along with Seneca, which returns a lot of its offensive production from a season ago.
Come postseason time, new Cassville coach Lance Parnell will have his stamp on this year’s team. The Wildcats looked its typical hard-hitting self in Friday’s jamborees, albeit undersized.
But Hayden Prater is the kind of leader that could make this defense special, as he was harping on details of mistakes made on Friday night as if he expects his team to be in midseason form.
Those are the expectations at Cassville, and they used to be the expectations of programs throughout the region in Class 3.
So, even without former coach and new athletic director David Large on the sidelines, I like the Cassville Wildcats to re-assert their regional dominance.