Camdenton Lakers and Versailles Tigers

Camdenton hoping to earn 27th district championship in battle with Borgia

Camdenton has enjoyed plenty of district titles over the years. Now, the Lakers have a chance to add the 27th in program history.

The Lakers punched their ticket to the title game after fighting their way through heavy fog to defeat the Helias Crusaders 57-35 at home in the district semifinals Friday night. Though the score may suggest otherwise, both teams looked evenly matched throughout. The deciding difference was in the hands of a few key plays that set the teams apart for good.

Things did not start well for Camdenton.

On the opening drive, junior quarterback Paxton DeLaurent threw an interception on his first throw and this gave the Crusaders great field position that allowed them to get the game’s opening score. Down 7-0, the Lakers composed themselves and struck back quickly with a 2-yard rushing touchdown from sophomore running back Eli Griffin. Camdenton would miss their first of many missed extra point tries, making the score 7-6. Before the first quarter expired, Helias found the end zone one more time on the heels of the quarterback, pushing the lead to 14-6.

Once again, though, Camdenton did not take long to respond as Griffin was soon back in the end zone for the first of five rushing touchdowns on the night and a successful two-point conversion tied the game back up at 14. Then, the Lakers decided to push ahead. On the ensuing drive, senior safety Jaben Shockley picked off an errant Helias throw and Camdenton took advantage of the good field position as another drive finished with a Griffin touchdown run to make it 21-14.

History soon repeated itself. This time, senior defensive back Gabe Kurtz intercepted a pass and Griffin soon found an opening to take the pigskin 45 yards to the house to open a two-touchdown lead. Helias cut the deficit to a single score before the half, but the Lakers were not done yet as DeLaurent found senior tailback Lathan Wise on the final play of the half for a 62-yard touchdown pass to give Camdenton a 35-21 cushion at the break.

Helias marched to the end zone on the opening drive of the second half and Camdenton responded as both sides went back-and-forth, but the Lakers opened up a 41-28 lead near the end of the third quarter and an errant Helias snap resulted in a safety to add two more points to the lead before the start of the final frame.

At this point in the game, the fog within the field started to heavily thicken and have an effect on the passing game of both teams. Much of the remainder of the game was on the ground. This was seen prominently with back-to-back rushing touchdowns by from senior running back Andrew Butts, putting the Lakers ahead for a comfortable 57-28 lead.

In a turn from what has been seen by this Camdenton team throughout the year, a majority of the scoring was seen on the ground. DeLaurent ended the night going 12-20 in the air for 172 yards and one touchdown each on the ground and through the air. A big night was had by Griffin, who ended up with 112 rushing yards on 20 attempts and three touchdowns. Butts finished with 79 yards on 12 attempts and two touchdowns. Wise closed it with two catches for 66 yards and the team’s only touchdown reception.

Camdenton coach Jeff Shore complimented his team on the resilience seen throughout the match. Through the cold and fog, he says they were able to fight through. By giving the Crusaders short field on their opening two drives, he says he understood why the defense looked lost at first and was happy to see a steep improvement throughout the remainder of the game.

“It’s tough to be in that position, to give the other team short field position,” Shore said.

He says that the team is set to prepare for the district championship against St. Francis Borgia (10-1) on Friday night at 7 p.m. Camdenton (10-1), which has seen few competitive matches throughout the year, will be tested in their biggest game of the season against a side that knocked off Rolla 52-14 in the district semifinals. St Francis Borgia is currently putting up 42.2 points while allowing 14.3 points per contest. Comparatively, the Lakers are scoring 50.2 points and giving up 17 points per outing.

Helias showed some fight early and this next contest will likely be no different, but getting off to a quick start can go a long way as Camdenton has outscored opponents 222 to 57 in the first quarter while going on to average 393.5 yards per game. The passing attack has been sharp all season and will need to be once again behind the arm of DeLaurent who has totaled 3,321 yards, 39 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He also has six rushing touchdowns on the season.

Helping him out will be Kurtz (49 receptions, 799 yards, four touchdowns), senior receiver Cash Calton (37 receptions, 450 yards, eight touchdowns), Shockley (36 receptions, 566 yards, five touchdowns), senior receiver Dylan Tufts (30 receptions, 319 yards, five touchdowns and Wise (22 receptions, 527 yards, seven touchdowns). Camdenton has also shown it still knows how to run the ball behind the “Hogs” up front as Griffin has totaled 16 rushing touchdowns to go with his 273 yards on the season while Butts has put up 110 yards and three touchdowns and Wise has recorded 112 yards of his own.

If Kurtz (40 tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss, four interceptions), junior linebacker Ryan Maasen (34 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss) and Shockley (30 tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss) can also remain sharp as the leading hitters of the “Purple Haze” defense, the night should bode well on the scoreboard.

Shore says his squad has to prepare mentally. He says for four weeks now, the coaching staff has put an emphasis on mental preparation for tighter outcomes. This will certainly be the case in their toughest match yet.

“That’s been the case. We’ve been reacting to the tough matchups well and so far so good,” Shore said. “At the end of the day, we are fortunate to play another home game in front of these great fans.”

Versailles looking to take down powerhouse Lamar for a district title

Versailles showed some determination Friday night.

The third-seeded Tigers were on the road at No. 2 El Dorado Springs for the semifinals of the Class 2 District 4 playoffs and no matter how many times the Bulldogs found the end zone, the Tigers usually had an answer. Holding on to a slim 27-22 halftime lead, Versailles countered every punch and the result was a 48-36 win that sent the Tigers to a district championship for the first time since 2009.

When Versailles coach Broc Silvers took the reigns of the program back in 2013, the Tigers did not win a single game. Now, the team finds itself just 48 minutes away from the state playoffs.

“It’s been a great ride this year, but the work began six years ago. A lot of these players were participants in our first football camp we held that first year and have been in the weight room for all six of those years,” the coach said of the journey. “We cannot forget the previous players that helped build this foundation to where this program is today. This success did not happen overnight and I’ve got to thank our school board and administrators for continuing to have faith that we could get the job done.”

The Tiger offense compiled 475 yards of offense on a night where the team only punted twice and never trailed after the first quarter. A big reason for that was the play of junior quarterback Coby Williams who proved to be a thorn in the Bulldog defense with a team-leading 114 rushing yards and two touchdowns while completing 22 of his 35 passes for another 281 yards, three touchdowns and just one interception.

The Versailles offensive line also paved the way for junior rusher Dallas Waller to add 77 rushing yards and a touchdown on just five carries and Williams had no trouble spreading the pigskin around to a quartet of receivers. Freshman wideout Kannen Wilson led the way with four receptions for 83 yards and a touchdown while senior Wyatt Espinosa added three catches for 31 yards and a score, junior Brycen Reynolds recorded two receptions for 40 yards and junior Brayden Morrison finished with two receptions for 25 yards and a touchdown.

El Dorado Springs did not make things easy, bulldozing for 367 rushing yards and 146 passing yards for a total of 513 on the night, but the Tigers made just enough stops to keep the Bulldogs down. Espinosa recorded two interceptions for the Tigers and Williams had one to frustrated El Dorado Springs and senior linebacker Michael Trotter led the tackling department with 17 on the evening while junior linebacker Gage Tessier finished with 11 and both Williams and Reynolds totaled nine.

Standing in the way of a district championship is Lamar (10-1) and Versailles (7-4) will visit the top-seeded fellow Tigers on Friday night at 7 p.m. Lamar is currently averaging 47.6 points and allowing 11 points per outing. Meanwhile, Versailles is currently scoring 26.8 points and giving up 24.3 points per game.

“Each week we talk about surviving and advancing in the playoffs. We don’t want this season to end,” Silvers said. “It’s been a great run and our coaches are grateful we get to coach this group of kids for at least one more week.”

The next opponent may be the best in the state. The success of Lamar has been no secret in the state of Missouri as the program has won seven straight state championships with a combined record of 98-5 since 2011 including three straight undefeated seasons before this year. However, that is no reason for Versailles to be intimidated.

“We know what we are up against and Lamar is the king of Class 2, but we have played teams in our conference that we hope gets us prepared for games like this against teams like Lamar,” Silvers noted. “We beat a great Class 3 state-ranked team in Southern Boone and have played a great Blair Oaks team this year. The last two years we have taken another step in building this program at Versailles.”

Versailles faces one of its toughest tests of the season against a team that has not let any opponent score more than 27 points in any game, but the Tigers have proven to be more than effective when everyone gets involved. Lamar’s first task will be stopping Williams who has punished most defenses this season with 1,630 passing yards and 17 passing touchdowns to go with 1,404 rushing yards and 24 rushing touchdowns.

Meanwhile, Trotter (465 rushing yards, two touchdowns) and Reynolds (138 rushing yards, two touchdowns) have kept the running game fresh and five different Tigers have totaled at least nine receptions. Espinosa (51 receptions, 662 yards, eight touchdowns) has led the receiving corps while Morrison (19 receptions, 264 yards, three touchdowns), Trotter (nine receptions, 99 yards) and senior Payton LaFoy (nine receptions, 69 yards) have proven reliable as well. There has also been a Tiger making a difference on the ground and through the air as Waller has added 114 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns while hauling in 41 receptions for 400 yards and two more touchdowns. Last but certainly not least, senior receiver Colbey Boicourt has made the most of his opportunities with six receptions for 113 yards and four touchdowns respectively.

Forcing three turnovers against El Dorado Springs helped Versailles stay ahead in the win over the Bulldogs and it would not hurt to have a few more again on Friday night to add to a season resume that features 20 on the season. Trotter can usually be counted upon to make a hit with a team leading 102 tackles on the season, featuring 19.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks. The secondary has also become sharper as Espinosa leads the team with five interceptions while Boicourt has four and Williams has three.

Time will soon tell who holds up the hardware in this round.

“We have always played our best games in the playoffs and I look forward to the challenge of playing Lamar this week. Our players earned the right to be in this game and we will give everything we have to try to knock off Lamar,” the coach added.