Eldon Mustangs, Versailles Tigers, Camdenton Lakers and Osage Indians
Versailles and Eldon Keys to the Game
TALE OF THE TAPE:
-Versailles: 21.6 points per game and 32.1 points allowed
-Eldon: 46.6 points per game and 30.8 points allowed
Highway 52 bragging rights will be on the line Friday night when Versailles hosts neighbor Eldon on the gridiron at 7 p.m.
Versailles (2-4) will look to sharpen things up this week after three turnovers led to a 48-8 loss to Osage. Meanwhile, Eldon (5-1), who was ranked No. 10 in the state for Class 3 before week six, comes into the contest after putting up their highest point total of the season in an 82-48 blowout Homecoming win over Warsaw. Eldon has won every game in this annual matchup since 2011, but the Class 2 Tigers are not a team to back down from any opponent, regardless of success or size. Here are the keys to the game for this Lake area battle.
1. Prepare for the Playoffs
Regularly taking on larger schools can be tough for any team, but the playoffs are just around the corner and Versailles will have the opportunity to pick on teams its own size. The Tigers will remained focus on the task ahead Friday night and look to take care of business and secure a win, but at the same time it is also an opportunity to sharpen things up and be firing on all cylinders for week 10. The first step is to get healthy and if Versailles can put up a strong showing Friday night and go on to close out the regular season on a high note, the sky may very well be the limit in late October and November. The Tigers currently sit in sixth in the district standings with 29 points while 5-0 Lamar is atop the district with 59.8 points. Versailles coach Broc Silvers said his club will be ready to compete no matter who they play and his guys will certainly be looking forward to the challenge.
2. Sustain Drives
Although last week’s score may not show it, Versailles was moving the chains against Osage and on the verge of putting more points on the board in the first half. A few unfortunate bounces led to three straight turnovers and Osage points, but this team has some very capable weapons. Sophomore quarterback Coby Williams has shown flashes of his play-making ability throwing for 867 yards and six touchdowns so far this season while rushing for 237 yards and another five touchdowns. Senior wide receivers Kooper Wilson (29 catches for 510 yards and 3 touchdowns) and Wyatt Espinosa (10 catches for 125 yards) have been reliable targets and will look to make the most of their remaining season under the Friday night lights. Meanwhile, senior running back Taylor Dobbins has done his part on the ground averaging 7.9 yards per carry for 447 yards and five touchdowns. Eliminating the penalties and utilizing the weapons can get the Tigers back to finding the end zone early and often.
3. Stuff The Run
Every team knows that Eldon loves to run the ball, but the Mustangs have mostly been able to enforce their will and still run extremely well averaging 6.8 yards per carry. The Tiger defensive line and linebacking corps that make up the front seven has to be on its toes and win the battle of the trenches if Versailles wishes to keep the visitors off the scoreboard. Versailles also has to display sound form tackling and not allow any elusive Mustang running backs to slip through its fingers. The defense has shown it is capable of this with the Tigers averaging 8.5 tackles for a loss per game, but Friday night’s task will be one of the toughest the team has faced all season. If Versailles can manage to consistently force Eldon into 3rd-and-long and make its opponent have to go to the air, the Tigers will have a chance to succeed.
1. Full Steam Ahead
After a tough loss to Class 3 No. 2 Blair Oaks, Eldon has responded well and everything has been clicking for the Mustangs on both sides of the ball. Since that time, Eldon has outscored its opponents 137 to 62 and have not shown any signs of slowing down. There should be no reason for that to not continue Friday night at Versailles if everyone continues to be on the same page. Eldon has shown it is “All In” throughout the year and now it is time to finish out the regular season the exact same way and get ready to make another run in the district playoffs. Eldon is currently second in the district standings with 41.33 points and trailing only Springfield Catholic who is 5-1 with 47.5 points respectively. Now, it is time to go get the job done on the field.
2. Dominate The Line
The Eldon offensive line has pushed around most of its opponents all season and will look to do so once again Friday night. The unit has been key to the team’s offensive success all season and Mustang running backs have shown their gratitude with 2,233 rushing yards and 34 touchdowns as a team. Senior Isaiah Merida has led the charge on the ground with 882 yards (8.3 yards per carry) and 13 touchdowns so far this season. Junior fullback Isaiah Parsons has also punished defenders with 505 yards (4.2 yards per carry) and 12 touchdowns of his own while senior running back Trenton Dillon has put up 317 yards (13.2 yards per carry). If the offensive line can also protect junior quarterback Dawson Brandt, he can make teams pay after throwing for 304 yards and five touchdowns with 127 of those yards and two touchdowns going to Merida and another 95 yards and two touchdowns going to Dillon. Brandt has also displayed his speed with 327 rushing yards (8.8 yards per carry) and five rushing touchdowns as well. Eldon clearly has plenty of options to go to, but it all starts with the offensive line up front.
3. No Easy Plays
Eldon may have won last week, but the defense was certainly not satisfied with giving up 48 points and a number of big plays to Warsaw. Versailles has some playmakers that know how to quickly get downfield so the Mustangs cannot take anything for granted. Senior linebacker Cole Walker (40 tackles, 5 tackles for a loss and 1 sack) and Brandt at defensive back (43 tackles, 3 tackles for a loss) have been the tackling leaders for the Mustangs so far and will be looked upon to lead the unit once again. Eldon has also forced its fair share of turnovers in 2017 and will be glad to know that Versailles coughed up three turnovers last week.
Osage looking for signature Homecoming win against Blair Oaks
Osage senior Drake Gaines was often in the right place at the right time Friday night at Versailles.
At wide receiver, he hauled in two touchdown passes and as a defensive back, he snatched away two errant Versailles throws that were tipped right into his hands. Turns out, his teammates were often where they were supposed to be as well in 48 to 8 win over the Tigers.
All 11 players on the field were on the same page from the start.Osage took the opening drive to the house in just over two minutes as the senior gunslinger Wheeler found a streaking Gaines, who broke away from a tackle, and cruised into the end zone for a 32-yard score. After an empty Versailles drive, Wheeler turned on the jets for the next score and waltzed past Versailles defenders for a 31-yard touchdown run to quickly make it 13-0.
Then disaster struck for Versailles as the Tigers turned the ball over on three straight drives. A muffed kickoff return quickly led to a 20-yard touchdown pass from Wheeler to Gaines, a tipped interception led to a 33-yard touchdown reception to junior wideout Dalton Depeé and another tipped interception led to Depeé’s second score of the night on a 34-yard pass. And just like that, it was 34-0 Osage early in the second quarter.
Versailles fought back taking an Osage fumble at the 50-yard line and capping it off with a 22-yard quarterback draw touchdown run from sophomore Coby Williams. But Osage kept coming. The Indians responded with a 49-yard drive that saw junior running back Hunter Neiman punch in an 11-yard run and the junior soon made it 48-6 with a 7-yard run on the following drive just before halftime. A botched snap on an Osage punt late in the fourth quarter led to a safety to create the final margin. However, a lot more went right for the Indians than went wrong.
After hanging up 51 points at Southern Boone last week, the Osage offense did not skip a beat and the Indians have been averaging 42 points per game since a week two loss to Seneca where they put up just seven points.
Through the air, Wheeler finished the night completing eight of his 11 passes for 194 yards and four touchdowns. Depeé led the receiving corps with four catches for 108 yards and two scores while Gaines posted three receptions and hauled in the other two touchdown passes for a total of 81 yards respectively. On the ground, Wheeler was just as effective as he led the Indians with five carries for 63 yards and a score while junior Hunter Neiman dashed for 45 yards and two scores.
The other half of Friday night’s successful equation was a relentless Indian defense that was led by the seven sacks of senior defensive lineman Josh McCubbin who recorded 11 total sacks to lead the Indians. Sophomore linebacker James Hutchcraft posted eight tackles of his own and Osage gave Versailles fits throughout the night with 10 total sacks as a team.
Osage improves to 4-2 overall with the win and 3-1 in the Tri-County Conference. However, the journey does not get any easier with state-ranked Blair Oaks coming to town Friday night at 7 p.m.
The undefeated Falcons (6-0) were ranked the No. 2 Class 3 team in the state ahead of Friday night’s win 30-7 win over Southern Boone. Blair Oaks averages 32.3 points per game offensively and the defense is currently giving up just 10.8 points per game respectively. By comparison, Osage averages 34.5 points per outing and allows 20.3 points at the same time.
“We are ver consistent in our preparation, have been for four years and it will be the exact same thing for Blair Oaks. It does not matter who we are playing against,” Osage coach Devin Johnson remarked. “This will be the third time we have played a ranked team or a team that was ranked this year, so we’ve played good football teams, know what it takes to beat a good football team and have done it before… I think our guys will prepare and be ready for the challenge.
Ultimately, a few plays can make a big difference in any game and time will tell if the Indians are ready to make those plays and defend home turf for Homecoming.
“In a ballgame that is 48 minutes, there will be three or four plays that can go one way or the other and if they go our way, then we’ll come out with the win,” Johnson said. “In the Tri-County Conference, every Friday night is special and important so we just look forward to another battle.”
Camdenton hoping to maintain conference lead at Waynesville
Camdenton (5-1) hosted Rolla for an Ozark Conference matchup and Homecoming Friday night in a game where the Lakers’ rushing attack dominated the first half, but the Bulldogs made things interesting in the second. Rolla chopped a 24-point deficit to three in the final minute, but the Lakers recovered an onside kick to seal a 45-42 win.
Trailing 7-0 early, Camdenton punched right back with a punishing rushing attack that saw senior fullback Todd SImpson leap over the line and into the end zone on 4th-and-2 to make it 7-6 after a blocked extra point.
After Rolla was stuffed on the next drive, thanks in part to a sack from senior defensive end Bo Shore, it did not take long for Camdenton to take advantage. Senior wideout Gabe Kurtz snuck through some traffic at the line of scrimmage and dashed for a 74-yard touchdown run. A 2-point conversion from senior wide receiver Jacob Hill made it 14-7 Lakers.
A Rolla punt followed and Camdenton quickly found the end zone once again, needing just two plays to go 67 yards to pay dirt. This time, Hill broke away on a 35-yard run to extend the lead to 21-7. Hoewver, Rolla managed to answer and cut the deficit to 7 on an 83-yard drive.
Then, Camdenton went right back to work. Facing 4th-and-short, senior quarterback Isaiah Lumley flipped a sweep out to Hill and the senior took the ball 27 yards to the house. Rolla faced a 4th-and-1 of its own on the ensuing drive, but the “Purple Haze” defense stopped the Bulldogs in their tracks and took advantage with another scoring drive. Camdenton worked the ball downfield and capped off the drive with a 1-yard run from senior running back Jay Griffin. Just before halftime, the leg of senior kicker Coleman Baker booted a 38-yard field goal through the uprights to extend the lead to 38-14.
The third quarter was quiet as both sides remained scoreless, but Rolla broke the silence and chopped into the lead. A 57-yard strike made it 38-20 and a 36-yard touchdown pass made it 38-28 with 4:54 left to play. Simpson answered with a big 57-yard run to extend the lead to 45-28, but a 20-yard Rolla touchdown run closed the gap to 45-36. Then, a 6-yard touchdown pass brought Rolla within three before Camdenton junior Riley Stidham recovered an onside kick to seal it.
Now the Lakers turn their attention to a winless Waynesville team for week seven. The Tigers have put up some fight, losing three of those games by single digits, but have been unable to break through. Waynesville currently puts up 31 points per game and have allowed 45.3 points per contest. At the same time, Camdenton is enjoying an average of 39.5 points per game while the defense is allowing just 23.5 points per contest and that has translated into four straight wins.
Since a tough loss to West Plains in week two, Camdenton has gotten back on track and the Lakers, who were ranked as the No. 9 Class 4 team in the state ahead of Friday’s game, are now in the driver’s seat for the Ozark Conference title race. Lebanon’s win over West Plains Friday night bumped down the Zizzers and Camdenton is currently tied with Joplin for the conference crown with three games to go.
“That puts us in first place, which is great,” Camdenton coach Jeff Shore said. “We have other aspirations as well. We’re always trying to win those playoff games and go as far as we can in the playoffs and hopefully all the way. That is always our goal. The conference championship is definitely something to play for at this point in time and we’ll play for it until it’s done. Then, we’ll focus on trying to win some playoff games.”
Camdenton will look to stay in the win column when the Lakers visit Waynesville on Friday at 7 p.m.