Camdenton coach Jeff Shore stated, “Webb City won their 19th straight district title and have obviously been a good team for a long time."

Here we go again.

Camdenton and Webb City are set to renew their storied rivalry in the Class 4 quarterfinals on Saturday and it seems it was only a matter of time before these two perennial powers would meet for another playoff showdown. The two Missouri Sports Hall of Fame programs have a combined 19 state championships between them and the defending state champion Cardinals currently lead the all-time series 6-5 after knocking the Lakers out of the playoffs in a 40-14 district semifinal win en route to the title a season ago. 

Last season’s meeting was the first between the two sides since 2005 when the Lakers won their last state title and now that Camdenton has been reacquainted with its former foe after moving back down to Class 4 from Class 5, the Lakers are looking forward to the challenge of exacting some revenge.

“We are in the final eight in the state and on our side of the bracket there are four teams left. The total record of those teams is 47-1 so obviously you feel like you are in good company there,” Camdenton coach Jeff Shore stated. “Webb City won their 19th straight district title and have obviously been a good team for a long time.

“They are definitely the premier program right now in the state of Missouri and playing them at their place will be a challenge. It will be a big hill to climb, our kids will be ready for it and we’ll do what we can to get it done.”

Shore had hoped to get a look at Webb City back in 2016 when a tough 29-28 loss to West Plains prevented Camdenton from meeting the Cardinals in the district semifinals. The Lakers got that opportunity last season and quickly came to realize that winning the battle of the trenches, being able to outrun Webb City and beat the Cardinals at their own game would be no small task as the Cardinals effectively controlled the line of scrimmage. Returning to the gridiron in 2018 with some new personnel, Camdenton decided to revamp its offense, breaking away from decades of tradition, and switch things up by primarily putting the pigskin in the air instead of running it behind the “Hogs” up front on the offensive line.

It ultimately presented a new dynamic to this matchup and Shore likes his chances.

“All the things we have done and the work we put in this year has pointed towards this moment to give ourselves a better chance. We were not able to run the ball very effectively last year and I did not want to get to that situation again and not have a chance to put some points on the board,” the coach remarked. “I think everything we have done has been in anticipation or preparing for this game. As a coach, I feel good and feel like we’ve done everything we can. We’ll go throw it out there and see what happens.”

Well, the decision has certainly produced a good track record as Camdenton is currently 11-1 and has outscored opponents by 377 points with an average margin of victory of 36.6 points. The lone loss of the season was a 41-7 decision on a rainy night at undefeated Ozark Conference foe West Plains who is also playing in the Class 4 quarterfinals. Shore said it has been a perfect storm in all phases of the game that has led to so much success.

“I think number one, our defense has played really well,” the coach pointed out. “The second thing was our ability to institute a little bit of a different offense. Paxton (DeLaurent) is the number one passer in the state of Missouri and our offense is up there in the top two or three in terms of scoring. That has been a neat deal for us and I feel like it gives us a chance to move on. 

“They seem like simple answers, but those are big keys. The next thing is our kicking game. Luke Galbreath has done a great job kicking this year and Coach (Daniel) Eidson has spent a lot of time with him so that has really helped kind of polish things up on that end. The last thing is just the enjoyment these guys play football with. Their effort has been tremendous so anytime you got guys that are going to play with great effort, you got a chance to hopefully win some ballgames.”

And the numbers certainly speak for themselves. 

The “Purple Haze” defense has produced a number of playmakers this season. One is senior defensive back Gabe Kurtz who has flown around to the football all season with a team-leading 45 tackles and four interceptions. Junior linebacker Ryan Maasen has totaled 35 tackles on the year with 3.5 of them occurring in the backfield, junior Collin Thomas has also shown his ability to pick off passes with three interceptions on the season and senior defensive end Kylan Draper has been a quarterback hunter with a team-leading 5.5 sacks while 10 other Lakers have also found the opposing quarterback at least once. As a unit, the defense has allowed just 193.1 yards per game including 3.6 yards per play. 

The offensive has been just as impressive in its attack that has wreaked havoc on opposing defenses. The Lakers are averaging 387 yards per outing including 6.7 yards per play.

The arm of the senior gunslinger DeLaurent has produced 3,498 passing yards and 40 touchdowns (both school records) to just seven interceptions. He has also rushed for another 73 yards and six scores respectively. His top target is Kurtz who has led the receiving corps with 51 receptions for 820 yards and four touchdowns, but the ball has been spread around pretty well. Senior receiver Cash Calton (41 receptions, 474 yards, eight touchdowns), senior receiver Jaben Shockley (38 receptions, 578 yards, five touchdowns) senior receiver Dylan Tufts (36 receptions, 406 yards, six touchdowns), senior running back Lathan Wise (24 receptions, 535 yards, seven touchdowns) and sophomore wideout Cooper Ezard (19 receptions, 202 yards, six touchdowns) know how to get open as well. On the ground, sophomore running back Eli Griffin (304 yards, 4.3 yards per carry, 16 touchdowns) and senior running back Andrew Butts (122 yards, 5.3 yards per carry, three touchdowns) can move the chains too. Last but not least, Galbreath has nailed 91 percent of his extra points and 40 percent of his field goals with a long of 28 yards.

“Our defense has been flying around and putting us in great positions, the offensive line is giving me time to make plays and the receivers are making those plays happen,” DeLaurent said of a team he says has bought into its coaches. “It has been a real team effort. I think this team does not really have ‘a guy,’ but we are the guys and we all do it together.”

The success did not just happen by chance, though. Shore recalled seeing flashes of the team’s potential during the summer at team camp and how it carried to the jamboree and the regular season without any hesitation.

“It just seems like these guys- I don’t know if they are hungry or what it is- but every time they show up to the football field whether it is practice or a game, they are really excited about getting with it.”

That mindset allowed Camdenton to win its first district championship since 2013 this past Friday after knocking off St. Francis Borgia 24-13 for the 27th district title in program history. Shore said he was glad to see his players rewarded for their efforts as well as his coaching staff who put in the preparation to make it possible. The coach said it was also rewarding to win the title in front of a home crowd at Bob Shore Stadium and commended the support his team has felt throughout the year. However, it also meant that this season and this journey would go on for another week.

“That was the biggest deal of the whole thing. The district championship was nice, but the main thing was that we were not done playing yet and had a chance to play again,” the coach remarked. “These guys have a good time playing football and are not ready for it to be over. Neither am I or our coaches so it is nice to be able to come back, practice another week and get a chance to play.”

Now, standing in the way of another week of football is an unbeaten Webb City (12-0) who has put together an average margin of victory of 32 points. The Cardinals had a couple of close calls in a 2-point win at Branson and a 9-point victory over Carthage the following week, but overall the program has only lost five games since the start of the decade. The Cardinals will be in pursuit of their 15th state championship and are currently tied with Valle Catholic for the most in Missouri history.

Shore said the current Webb City team may be just as dangerous as any other that have put on the pads. The Cardinals are currently averaging 390 yards per contest.

“They are one of the better teams I’ve seen them have to be honest with you,” he said. “Offensively, they are probably the best team I’ve seen them have and I’ve seen several of their teams so it will be a big challenge on that end. Defensively, they are really talented as well.”

Perhaps the most challenging task for Camdenton will be stopping senior Durand Henderson who has totaled 1,227 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns on the season averaging 8.5 yards per carry. Sophomore Devrin Weathers (978 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns) and senior Kane Parks (312 rushing yards and seven touchdowns) can do some damage as well. Senior quarterback Cade Beason has also shown some mobility with 490 yards and six touchdowns on the ground while throwing for 848 yards, 10 touchdowns and just two interceptions. His top targets have been senior Alex Gaskill (369 receiving yards and seven touchdowns) and junior Terrell Kabala (352 receiving yards and four touchdowns). On the defensive side of the ball, the biggest enforcers have been junior Ruben Lenker (102 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss), junior Brayden Bond (six sacks) and Gaskill (four interceptions).

DeLaurent said being in this position is a great feeling and the work is never done for Camdenton football until a state title is won, but there is plenty to focus on in the meantime as the next opponent is certainly nothing to scoff at. At the same time, a Laker program that has won five state titles should have high expectations as well.

“We know we just have to do our jobs and they are a very beatable team,” the junior quarterback said. “They are very good obviously being 14-time state champions and they deserve the attention and recognition, but if we do our jobs they are just another team.”

Shore is not intending to treat this game any differently either. 

“Our mindset has been that we are going to throw everything we’ve got for hopefully 90 plays on offense if we can get that many and for however many plays on defense,” the coach stated. “Hopefully at the end of the game that is enough and if it is not, we’ll tip our cap to you because we feel like you are an awfully good football team if you beat us doing that.”

Shore said getting a feel for Webb City in last year’s district playoffs should help and time will soon tell if that will be the case when these two sides clash on Saturday afternoon in Webb City. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.

“The main thing is just staying focused, staying ready to go and being excited about playing football and taking the field with the same attitude they’ve had all year long, which is an absolute excitement to play football,” Shore noted. “That is all they need to do and whatever happens will happen, but I think if we do that we’ll have a chance to make it a really good ballgame.”