Faces in KS: Derrick Cassell

Derrick Cassell of Chetopa is primed for a big year in 8M-II. (Brian Holderman, courtesy Kpreps.com)
By: Sports in Kansas - Chet Kuplen
Sep 16, 2014

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Chetopa, a town of just over 1,000 in southeast Kansas, is often referred to as the “Catfish Capital of Kansas”. This season Chetopa also takes on the role as one of the best 8-man football teams in Kansas, currently ranked the number one team in 8-man Division II by Kpreps. Perhaps the biggest reason for that: Derrick Cassell

“It’s a small town that is for sure. A lot of fishing and hunting.” Cassell said.

Cassell, however isn’t small, a 6-foot-1 210 pound senior, is one of the top 8-man football players in Kansas on both sides of the football for the Green Hornets. As a running back, he has rushed for 3,415 yards and 66 touchdowns, dating back to his freshman year in 2011, including over 1,200 in each of his last two seasons. Cassell has also racked up 333 career tackles from is linebacker position, including 113 in nine games last season.  Head coach, Sean Price, has coached a lot of football in his 10 years as a head coach and 22nd overall in the business. He knows Cassell is the real deal.

“Derrick is the best all around football player I've coached in 22 years. He is a leader and will do anything to get the job done.” Price said.

Being a good football player, often takes a lot of dedication to strength and conditioning. Cassell puts up numbers in the weight room: 465 squat, cleans 285 and benches 260 pounds. Throw in his size, a 36-inch vertical, 4.6 forty yard dash and you have a player that is very hard to tackle. Cassell, a noted leader by Price, also never mentioned himself in any part of conducting this interview, he's all about making the team better in every aspect.

“Weights are one of the most important things when it comes to football, not only for me for our entire team.” Cassell said.

Chetopa finished 7-3 a year ago, went 5-0 in league play, but lost to South Barber in the first round of the 8M-II playoffs. The good thing, Chetopa returns nearly everyone with seven starters on offense and eight starters on defense back in 2014. Senior quarterback, Philip Moses, headlines that group as he returns after throwing for over 2,000 yards and 31 touchdowns in 2014. They also added athlete Sherrick Rogers, a junior transfer from Pittsburg in the offseason, who has made an immediate impact with four touchdowns in the first two weeks of the season. The Hornets have outscored opponents 116-6 after the first two games, well on their way to averaging more points per game than they did last season (50.8).  

“Last season we got beat in the first round of the playoffs, wasn’t too thrilled about that, but we still ended up league champs and a pretty good overall season.” Cassell said.

You have to think Chetopa might have all the right pieces in place for a serious run at an 8M-II title in 2014. Baileyville B&B, last year’s champ out of the east playoff bracket, is no longer in existence, as they merged with Nemaha Valley to form 3A Nemaha Central. Hanover, last year’s 8M-II sub-state runner-up is up to 8M-I. The teams expectations are nothing less than a state title.

“We obviously want to win league and district first, but we want to be state champs.” Cassell said.

Look for the Green Hornets to make a serious run in 8M-II this season. Chetopa is 2-9 all-time in the state playoffs and have never won or played for a state title in football. This week they take on Pleasanton (1-1) on Friday at home. Will this be the year for the Hornets to make a title appearance? We caught up with Derrick below…

Q&A w/ Derrick Cassell

How did you get involved in athletics?

I've been playing ever since I was in the 3rd grade and there's not much else to do in the small town.

Talk about how last football season went for you and your team?

We got beat in the first round of playoffs last year not to thrilled with it but overall all we had a good season. League champs.

Any goals for you this season?

I got a few goals this season, I want to start by winning league and district, but for the most part I want a state championship ring.

What are the teams expectations in 2014?

STATE CHAMPS!

What will it take to make a run in 8M-2 this season?

Keep working in practice and being disciplined on defense.

What do your opponents look like this season?

We actually have a weak schedule but Uniontown should give us a good run, which we need.

Biggest rival?  

South barber since they beat us in the first round last year.

How has practice went so far the entire season?

For the most part really good.

Who are some of the key players for the Hornets?

We're an all around big and fast team I think our lines made huge gains and I enjoy running the ball when there in front of me. Our defense has also made a huge leap from last year, Trent Scott, Dylan Riddle, Leyton Carter, Tait Johnson, Alex Carter, Cole Swanwick, and Sherrick Rogers will fly to the ball and make plays. 

What do you use as motivation to become a better player?

My defensive coach (Jaunc Bradshaw) showing us his two state championship rings.

How important is the weight room to you?

Weights are a big thing when it comes to football for me and the rest of the team.

Any college plans , seeing any recruiting looks, what schools?

Possibly Pitt State

Favorite subject in school?

Shop class

Do you play any other sports besides football?

Baseball and track

What is it like to grow up in Chetopa?

A small town so a lot of fishing and hunting.

How is it to play for coach Price?

He's by far the best coach that has coached me here at Chetopa, we butt heads every now and then but we get over it.

Best opposing player you've faced in high school?

South Barber's running back and quarterback. (Peyton Yandel and Dylan Allison)

When you aren't playing sports, what do you do for fun?

Hang out with my friends, hunting, and fishing.