It's official. The Camdenton Lakers and the Eldon Mustangs have made the state quarterfinals, meaning they are both one of eight football teams still alive in the playoffs in their classes. Do they have what it takes to reach the Final Four? Sports editor Ben Peters thinks so.
Coach: Shannon Jolley
Last Game: The Eldon Mustangs football team won Monday's neutral playoff game against Ava by a score of 19-14.
Coach: Dan Scheible
Last Game:The Seneca Indians football team won Monday's neutral playoff game against Aurora by a score of 45-15.
The Eldon Mustangs are headed back to the state quarterfinal.
Last year, Monett proved to be too much for the Eldon squad, knocking them out with 49-6 win.
This year, the Mustangs face Seneca, a team that, just like the Mustangs, is 9-3 this season after their district win over Aurora.
The Mustangs have a lot going for them right now. Their run-game is back in shape, as Raymond Kwok and Dalton Lister are back in the fold, while the defense continues to make plays at key moments.
This squad may not be as flashy as some of their counterparts, but Jolley's tried-and-true method of aggressively attacking with the run has gotten them this far.
Wyatt Greenwalt and the stable of running backs will try to do the same thing they do every game: pound the defense on the ground with big gains.
The Mustangs are capable of doing just that, too. Their offensive line has settled down from earlier in the season, and with every game, this team gets more experience. By this time, they're now veterans of the football field.
The defense has been playing at a high and consistent level all season long. They have a knack for swarming the ball, and they force turnovers.
As we all know, one of the keys to winning is to win the turnover battle, and Eldon has made a habit of doing just that. They're good about how they protect the ball on offense, and the defense? Let's just say they love a good scramble for a fumble, and whether it be one of the Hedrick boys or Wren Rodriguez, they can make an offense think twice about putting that ball up in the air.
Seneca, on the other hand, will feature a more balanced offense, as they mix the run and passing game at about a 2:1 ratio in favor of running.
Braxton Graham is capable of putting up big numbers on the ground, like he did in the 45-15 win over Aurora, where he finished the night with 29 carries for 254 yards and 4 touchdowns. Graham is also one of the favorite receivers, as he has 32 receptions for over 600 yards and 11 touchdowns this season.
Through the air, the team is led by QB Paytin Rawlins, who has an accurate arm (61% of passes completed) and can scramble for yards (264 yards and 4 rushing touchdowns this year).
The duo of Chance Smith and Dalan Merriman has combined for nearly 1400 receiving yards this season and 10 TDs, but on the plus side for the Mustangs, their quarterback has also been picked off seven times, while the offense has lost seven fumbles this season.
Defensively, Seneca has accrued 22 sacks this season, from seven different players. They're led by senior Ryker Skelton, who has 7.5 sacks so far.
Eldon's offensive line will have a good test against a solid pass rush, but the elusiveness of their ball-carriers might be just enough to wear this defense out.
With a home field crowd roaring their team on to victory, Eldon's chances are just as good as anyone. They've been on improving every year, so the next logical step? Winning this game.
Ben's Notes: I love what Eldon has accomplished with the run-game. I've always been a fan of power running teams, and Eldon has incorporated that into their ideology, and what's more, it works. They have a number of talented players to carry the ball, and they can mix it up. Sure, everyone knows they're going to run, but they have no clue as to which player will do it, and which direction.
Coach: Jeff Shore
Last Game: The Camdenton Lakers football team won Monday's neutral playoff game against Waynesville by a score of 35-0.
Coach: Mark Goldenberg
Last Game:The Parkway Central Colts football team won Monday's away playoff game against Fort Zumwalt East by a score of 46-8.
For the third year in a row, the Camdenton Lakers have made the state quarterfinals under head coach Jeff Shore.
For the second year in a row, Parkway Central stands between them and a shot at the state title.
The Camdenton Lakers have consistently been a top-tier team, and this season is no different. The Lakers may have changed their recipe for success slightly, as they now possess the weapons to truly dominate in the passing game, but one thing will always remain the same about this Camdenton team: they always have the will to fight, and will do whatever it takes to win.
The changes to Camdenton's team this season just might be the difference between this season and last, as the 2012 season ended with a heartbreaking 7-0 loss to the Colts.
Camdenton's squad, known for their powerful rushing attack, failed to produce in the loss, as the larger sized Colt team pounded the ground against the smaller Laker team.
This year, the Colts will still be the bigger team, and they'll still run the ball.
It's the Lakers who have changed.
The Lakers' running game still is ever-present, but the offense's bread-and-butter this season has been a strong mix of rushing plays and aerial dominance, led by great pass-blocking from a smaller Laker offensive line.
Quarterback Bo Dean is a versatile player who can rush the ball as well as make the right throws, as he has completed nearly 70% of his passes this season. His top two weapons are the speedy Ryan Elliott and the acrobatic and strong Kullen Carlock, both of whom will require the attention of the secondary.
The Lakers' rushing attack is still putting up the numbers, similar to last season, but this year, it has turned to a committee rather than a feature back. Luke Burris leads the backs in yardage, with his speed, while Matt Endsley has turned into a ground-and-pound ball-carrier who comes in handy in goal-line situations.
The Laker defense will again be the smaller of the two teams, but the way the Purple Haze has played all season suggests that the Colts will have a tough time scoring, as the Lakers have allowed an average of 13 points to opponents this season.
Parkway Central's offense hinges on their run-game. They're led by Augie Brooks, their 5-foot-7 senior running back who has scored 34 touchdowns this season.
But they also use Michael Slater, a 265-pound junior, and fullback Khalen Saunders, who weighs in at 285-pounds.
Parkway Central may have home field advantage, but the Lakers will be looking for revenge and the opportunity to keep their season alive. Camdenton knows this game is a do-or-die, and they will live by that in this upcoming game.
Ben's Notes: Let's be honest: Last season, it was simply the size difference that gave Parkway the win. They were too big to be stopped by the smaller Camdenton defense, but I have to say, the Purple Haze this season has been stellar. Regardless of speed, strength or size, they are prepared, and I think that will go a long way in this game.