Lakers visit Webb City in district semifinals next week

Camdenton is moving on. 

The Lakers ended their brief two-year drought of no playoff wins Friday night with a 39-12 victory over visiting Hillcrest in an Ozark Conference rematch. It is a drought Camdenton senior fullback Todd Simpson is glad to see end. 

“This is probably the most fun team I’ve ever played on,” said Simpson who led the Lakers with two rushing touchdowns in the district opener. “This is the first postseason win for our class of seniors so we are pretty excited about it and we are looking to get another one next week against Webb City.” 

Simpson’s efforts were part of the successful formula, but it was a complete team effort with highlights from multiple Lakers on both sides of the ball. Camdenton built up a 23-0 lead by halftime and never let the Hornets get within striking distance. 

Offensively, Camdenton often employed its historically traditional style of “Smashmouth” football where the Lakers dared Hillcrest to stop the run. Thanks to the “Hogs” up front on the offensive line, Camdenton was able to consistently move the chains and wear out the Hornets. 

“That was the game plan coming in. I did not know we would be able to run it that well honestly,” Camdenton coach Jeff Shore said. “We were prepared to do some other things too, but we were able to do it.

“In the pregame, I just sat there and looked at ‘Big Semau’ (Josh Semau), (Grant) Norton, ‘Harry’ (Harrison Brownell) and (Luke) Rasmussen on one side and you had ‘Big Lumley’ (Jon Lumley), (Chazz) Sawyers and (Mason) Kinney on the other side. I thought, ‘You know, these guys can do it’ and they did. They responded and they’ve had two great ballgames in a row where they’ve stepped it up and just played really well. It helps when you can run the football,” the coach added of his offensive line. 

Camdenton needed just over three minutes and 53 yards to find the end zone on its first drive as the Lakers pounded the rock straight through the Hornet defense with run after run. Eventually, Simpson broke through the line and ran virtually untouched for a 33-yard touchdown to put his team up 7-0. After Hillcrest followed that up with a three-and-out on its first drive, Camdenton lined up and did it again. This time, the Lakers marched 85 yards and finished off the drive with a 24-yard jet sweep touchdown run from senior wideout Jake Hill to make it 14-0 by the end of the first quarter.

Hillcrest started to find a little traction on the next series, but a sack from Camdenton sophomore defensive lineman Mason Kinney disrupted the Hornets’ flow and Hillcrest gave the Lakers the ball back with a turnover on downs at the Laker 15-yard line. Then, Camdenton put together another punishing 85-yard drive that culminated in a 1-yard touchdown run from senior running back Jay Griffin who flew over the top of the pile. Hillcrest proceeded to give the Lakers two more points when a botched snap that flew over the head of quarterback Haden Parton resulted in Parton kicking the ball out of the end zone just before the half. 

Hillcrest managed to get on the board in its first possession after halftime when running back Dion Davis scurried up the middle for a 36-yard touchdown. However, Camdenton answered right back. Senior Gabe Kurtz got things started with a kickoff return to the Camdenton 47-yard line and a few plays later, the Lakers converted a 4th-and-8 on a 26-yard pass from senior quarterback Isaiah Lumley to senior wide receiver Jackson Ezard. Facing another 4th down, Simpson plowed his way through the line for a 1-yard score. 

“They dominated,” Simpson said of the “Hogs” up front. “The first one (touchdown) I did not get touched and the second I could have walked in too. The offensive line did a great job all night long and it did not matter what quarter it was. 

“I mean, pushing somebody around like that is fun and we made them do everything we wanted to do. We just pushed them around and it is really enjoyable to do that,” he added. 

Camdenton’s “Purple Haze” defense did not make things any easier either as the unit proceeded to force two straight Hillcrest turnovers. The first one came when Kurtz, who plays defensive back, tipped a pass for his fellow defensive back Ezard to pull down for an interception. Then a sack from senior defensive lineman Connor Whitney forced a fumble on the next series for Kinney to scoop up at the Hillcrest 40-yard line. The offense soon rewarded him with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Lumley to the tight end Rasmussen on a corner route to make it 36 to 6. 

“We practiced a lot this week on eliminating big plays, stopping them up front and just being the bigger man,” Kinney said of the defensive game plan. “Everybody just wants to keep grinding and go as far as we can. We just grinded every play, went as hard as we could and just found a way.

“We just have to keep doing what we are doing, bring the heat and hit them (Webb City) even harder next week. We’ll come out hitting,” the sophomore added.

Hillcrest managed to score one more time on a 52-yard touchdown pass from Parton to wideout Joshua Powell midway through the fourth quarter, but it was the final time the Hornets would reach pay dirt. Meanwhile, Camdenton put together one last scoring drive that saw senior kicker Coleman Baker blast a 38-yard field goal through the uprights with 29 seconds left to create the final margin. After Hillcrest gave Camdenton some trouble with a few big plays in the season opener, the Hornets were relatively quiet Friday night and Shore offered just as much praise for the coaching staff as the guys who got it done on the field. 

“Coach (Nick) Bruck really came up with a great game plan along with Coach (Tim) McDuffey, (Shawn) Maschino, (Andrew) Nolting and (Steve) Bayless,” Shore stated. “We tried to eliminate Powell and we put (Jake) Hill on him who did a great job with it all night long. You put your fastest guy in the state on their dude and he accepted the challenge and did a great job.

“We were also able to get a great rush with Kinney and our interior guys in Bo (Shore), (Marlin) Briggs and Whitney. Those guys really got a great rush in so it was a good overall defensive performance,” Shore pointed out. 

The drought is over, but the road does not get any easier for Camdenton (8-2) as the Lakers, who entered this week as the No. 10 Class 4 team in the state, will travel to southwest Missouri next Friday to face Webb City in the district semifinals. The undefeated Cardinals (10-0) entered the district playoffs as the top-ranked Class 4 team in the state respectively. 

There are a total of 18 state championships between the two programs with Webb City winning 13 of them and Camdenton winning five of its own. The last time these two sides met was in 2005 when Camdenton topped Webb City 21-14 in the quarterfinals on its way to the fifth state title. Now, only one of these teams will get the opportunity to move on and pursue another when the Lakers and Cardinals clash at 7 p.m.

“We are super excited about the opportunity. Obviously, they are an unbelievable program,” Shore said of next week’s opponent. “There are four programs in the state of Missouri that are in the (Missouri) Sports Hall of Fame and two of them are going to play next Friday night. Hopefully we can go down there, make it a good ballgame and be ready to go.” 

To make that happen, Shore said it will require just as much effort, if not more, than his club put up Friday night. 

“It is the same as always,” the coach said of the message going into this next week of practice. “We have to be ‘All In’ and they were tonight. I loved how they responded and we just have to accept the challenge, go down there and just play absolutely as hard as we can.” 

Time will soon tell if the Lakers can do just that. 

This story will be updated with stats as soon as they become available