Camdenton Lakers, Versailles Tigers, Eldon Mustangs and Osage Indians

Camdenton eager to get the season going in opener with Waynesville

So far, so good for the Camdenton Lakers in 2019.

After Friday night’s home jamboree with Lake area neighbor Eldon and Sedalia Smith-Cotton, Camdenton came out of the preseason scrimmage injury free with highlights on both sides of the ball. The Laker offense- one of the state’s best a season ago averaging 46.3 points per game- had no trouble finding the end zone and the starting defense gave up few, if any, first downs. If it is a sign of things to come when the action starts counting Friday night in the home and season opener against Waynesville, there is plenty of reason to be excited.

“It is great to play somebody else and it could not have gone any better for us tonight, we are super happy with it,” Camdenton coach Jeff Shore said after the jamboree.

“I thought our kids played with a lot of enthusiasm so that sets us good for the real season starting next Friday.”

Camdenton could not have had a much better start in last year’s opener against the Tigers in a 49-0 shutout on the road over the Ozark Conference foe. The Laker defense forced five turnovers and had a blocked punt in the win allowing just six first downs and 45 yards of total offense. There were flashes of that same defense in the jamboree Friday night that returns seven starters.

“Last year we had a really great year on defense and they played fantastic,” Shore remarked of the unit that allowed just 17.5 points per game last season. “Coach (Nicholas) Bruck, (Tim) McDuffey, (Cole) Walker and (Charlie) Gordon have done a great job coaching and obviously the players are the key. I was really happy with our defense tonight. We have a lot of inexperienced guys in some spots and I thought we played really well.”

Of course, the offense had just as fun of a night in the opener last year against the Tigers.

Senior quarterback Paxton DeLaurent put together a number of highlights in the start of his All-State junior campaign as he threw for 281 yards and five touchdowns against Waynesville and senior receiver Cooper Ezard hauled in three of those touchdowns on six receptions for 56 yards. Senior receiver Jase Nicklas put up four receptions for 59 yards and a score and junior tailback Eli Griffin also ran in for a score. Now, with a year of experience in the new high-flying offense, Shore feels like that side of the ball is even better prepared in 2019.

“Honestly, it has been easier in the preseason than it was last year. We are a lot more advanced in our understanding of routes and things like that,” Shore said. “It has been really good and a lot easier to advance and install some stuff.”

Having DeLaurent taking the snaps once again is certainly beneficial as well after a season where he totaled 3,858 passing yards and 43 touchdowns while rushing for seven more touchdowns on the ground.

“He has worked so hard in the offseason. He has really prepared himself and that has put him in a good spot,” Shore said of his senior signal caller.

After reaching the Class 4 state quarterfinals a season ago, Camdenton is certainly eager to go further and finish the job that would bring a sixth state title back home. Waynesville, a team that finished 3-7 a season ago averaging 21.5 points per game and allowing 31.5, will be the first hurdle as the Lakers look to get started on the right foot, and certainly has no intention of letting this first contest play out the same way.

“Number one, we built on what those guys provided last year, which was a fantastic year. Number two, it is hunger,” Shore stated. “We feel like we have unfinished business and our kids have taken that to heart. They want to play, they want to win and want to win for those guys last year. It is just a typical Laker team ready to go and it has fueled us more than anything.”

Whatever the season has in store for Camdenton, the coach said that same enthusiasm should be present when the Lakers take the field on any given Friday night.

“Our mood is the same every time. We just want to be the most excited to play and the brand of ball we play is exciting,” he said. “We really have that mentality to throw it all out there and whatever happens, happens. We are going to try to keep the pressure on offense and defense and if a team is good enough to take that and beat us, we’ll tip our cap to them and say, ‘Hey, you’re an awful good team and good luck to you.’”

The Lakers welcome Waynesville Friday night at 7 p.m.

The Lake Sun’s Mitch Prentice contributed to this report

TALE OF THE TAPE

Camdenton 2018 Finish: 11-2

Waynesville 2018 Finish: 3-7

Camdenton 2018 Points For: 46.3

Waynesville 2018 Points For: 21.5

Camdenton 2018 Points Against: 17.5

Waynesville 2018 Points Against:31.5

Versailles looking to be sharp in season opener with Knob Noster

A familiar foe comes to town to start the season when Versailles hosts Knob Noster to kick things off in the home opener.

The Tigers and Panthers renew an annual gridiron clash that has gone back more than a decade and Versailles has been able to win a majority of those matchups in the current decade, enjoying a 6-3 record in the series. But it was Knob Noster who introduced the Tigers to a rough start last year with a 68-30 win on the home turf so Versailles coach Broc Silvers knows he and his staff must have have the team prepared as best can be for whatever comes their way.

“We’ll get to see some jamboree film on them and sometimes it is not a great idea,” said Silvers who noted that the Panthers displayed things in the season opener that were not on film. “Coach (Rich) Johnson sometimes hides stuff or does not really show what he maybe wants to do so we have to be prepared a little bit more.

“You have to be ready for everything. After that, you kind of get a feel for everyone else.”

Add to that the fact that Knob Noster is located near Whiteman Air Force Base so the Panthers could have a number of transfers in any given year that Versailles has not seen before and has no idea what they are capable of to start the year. Based upon Silvers’ research, Knob Noster also reportedly has a new defensive coordinator and new scheme the Tigers will have to make adjustments to. On the bright side, the coach pointed out that this is the second year for Johnson so a track record does exist.

“You never really know what Knob is going to have and having them week one is harder than maybe having them week two,” Silvers said of the fellow Class 2 team that finished 7-4 with a trip to the district semifinals. “The same could be said for us. They have to do the same thing and they don’t know exactly what we are going to come out and do either so it is a fair matchup.”

Whatever Knob Noster brings to the table, Versailles certainly has personnel Silvers will be glad to go to battle with as the Tigers bring back plenty of experience and veteran leadership from last season’s 7-5 finish that concluded with a run to a district championship game.

“I hate to say this but I feel like we are further ahead this year than we’ve ever been. This is the first yer we have not had a coordinator change,” said Silvers who pointed out that it took some time for players to get fully acclimated under new defensive coordinator Aaron Allen’s scheme a season ago while the same could be said for the offense he took over. “We got some returning guys we feel like are further ahead with our sub packages and sub groups and stuff.”

Senior quarterback Coby Williams started out with 146 rushing yards and two touchdowns in his debut against Knob Noster in 2018 and threw for another 64 yards and a score in the start of a standout school record-breaking junior campaign. He will have a number of weapons to go to whether it is fellow senior Dallas Waller in the run or passing game, senior tight end Kaden McGinnis or a pair of experienced receivers in seniors Brayden Morrison and Payton LaFoy along with juniors Max Coleman and Brycen Reynolds in the backfield.

"If we are going to beat Knob it is going to have to be sharp I’m sure and Coby was on point tonight,” Silvers said after the team’s preseason jamboree against Tipton and Cole Camp Friday night. “He is going to have to be on point with our receivers again and our pass protection was good, if not great. We just have to keep working at it.”

Another point of emphasis from the coaching staff for the upcoming week besides fundamentals is to clean up any miscues from the jamboree and that will especially ring true for a defense that gave up 68 points to the Panthers in the opener last year. The Daily Star-Journal noted that Knob Noster lost a talented senior quarterback in Stevie Elwell who led his team to 43.3 points per game, but the Panthers have experience with 22 upperclassmen coming back hungry to build off the program’s best season since 1995. Perhaps one of the biggest threats will be junior wide receiver Kalix Booze-Byrd who was an All-State high jumper last spring. Time will tell if the Tigers are up to the task.

“I am glad to be home. It looks like the weather is going to be awesome like it was tonight, which is great for us,” Silvers said. “You always wonder about your conditioning and make sure you don’t want to cramp up. We got to go back and fix our jamboree mistakes first and that will be Monday. Tuesday we’ll really start on Knob Noster and go through a normal week like we would any other week.”

After months of training throughout the summer, the season has finally arrived. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

TALE OF THE TAPE

Versailles 2018 Finish: 7-5

Knob Noster 2018 Finish: 7-4

Versailles 2018 Points For: 30.8

Knob Noster 2018 Points For: 43.3

Versailles 2018 Points Against: 29.5

Knob Noster 2018 Points Against: 30.5

Eldon set to battle Bolivar in season opener for second straight year

Eldon and Bolivar will face off in the season opener for the second straight year and after taking care of the Liberators in the home opener 42-26 a season ago, the Mustangs will be hoping for a similar result on the road Friday night.

After a 6-5 campaign in 2018 that was plagued with some injuries and concluded in a trip to the district semifinals, Class 3 Eldon will seek another fresh start against a Class 4 Liberator team that went 4-6 on an independent schedule and was bounced in the first round of districts. Like the Mustangs, Bolivar had some youth that gained valuable experience last season as the program returns 15 total starters.

A couple of names that are sure to make Eldon’s scouting report are senior quarterback Hayden Burks who threw for 1,899 yards and 15 touchdowns last season along with senior tailback Eathen Dinwiddie who nearly tallied 1,000 yards on the ground in just seven games. Overall, Bolivar is glad to have back its starting tight end, two receivers and four offensive linemen that helped produce 27.9 points per contest last season and will be looking for some payback against the Mustangs.

“Bolivar is a big, physical team. They have a talented quarterback with some good athletes around him,” Eldon coach Chad Hult pointed out. “Defensively, we’ll have to focus on containing the quarterback as he is the one that makes them go.”

The Liberator defensive unit also returns valuable experience up front, anxious to cut down the 24.3 points per game the group gave up in 2018.

Meanwhile, the seniors who did a good portion of the work in Eldon’s season-opening win a year ago against Bolivar are all gone.

The team will employ a new starting signal caller at quarterback in sophomore Dallas Hardy, a new running back in sophomore Killian Wilson and senior Xander Strickland will get more work at the wing spot in the traditional Wing-T formation of the Mustang offense while senior Kaden Dillon and sophomore Mason Kirkweg seek to keep the ground game a continued strength from the fullback position. Eldon’s experience up front on the offensive line- the team’s most experienced group and source of strength- will also be a huge factor as the play up front in the trenches will be vital to score some points.

As for the passing game, senior receiver Nathaniel Wardenburg and junior tight end P.J. Bledsoe are a pair of targets who will be counted upon to make a difference through the air.

If Eldon is going to slow Bolivar down, senior Jonathon Schoenfeld will be key up front on the Eldon defensive line along with sophomore Mason Kirkweg and the lengthy 6-foot-3 junior Fisher Snelling. Dillon, Strickland, Bledsoe and junior Holt Bashore will look to solidify the 3-4 defensive front at linebacker while Wardenburg, Hardy and senior Blake Smith provide crucial experience in the secondary.

After losing 13 seniors from last year’s squad, time will soon tell if this new group can step up and lead the way on Friday nights. Bolivar should be a good first test.

“It depends which younger guys want to step up,” Eldon coach Hult previously told Game Night on his outlook for the new season. “We had guys do that last year and now we have to continue to have more and more step up so it will be fun, interesting, entertaining- whichever word you want to use to see which guy is able to do that.”

Another thing the coach will be looking for is discipline as both sides shake off the proverbial jitters and cobwebs that can come along in the first game of a brand new season.

“For us to be successful we have to clean up a few mistakes from the jamboree and be more physical,” Hult noted. “The main focus for us this week will be being more disciplined in what we do. Games in the early season are always sloppy so if we can minimize our miscues, we will be in a good position this week.”

Eldon and Bolivar meet Friday night at 7 p.m.

TALE OF THE TAPE

Eldon 2018 Finish: 6-5

Bolivar 2018 Finish: 4-6

Eldon 2018 Points For: 25.9

Bolivar 2018 Points For: 27.9

Eldon 2018 Points Against: 28.9

Bolivar 2018 Points Against: 24.3

Osage looking for another strong start in opener against Fulton

Season openers have been fairly kind to Osage over the years.

For over a decade, the Indians have kicked things off against the Fulton Hornets for the first battle beneath the Friday night lights and Osage has won seven of the past nine games including three straight after taking care of the Hornets 42-27 a season ago. But past results are not exactly a predictor of future outcomes and Osage coach Devin Johnson is certainly aware of that fact and the opponent’s capabilities.

“Fulton is a good first test for us,” the coach said of a program that went 1-9 last year. “They have a good running back, a few good receivers and a strong group of underclassmen. Freshman Courtland Simmons starts both ways at wide receiver and outside linebacker and shows some flashes of being very special. He goes up and gets the ball and has explosive speed. Their sophomore quarterback Woodrow Foster delivers a good ball and has the ability to escape the pocket. They are very big and physical up front.”

These are just a few points Osage will look to address in practice this week if the Indians would like history to repeat itself and push the winning streak to four games. During a tough 2-8 campaign last season, perhaps the team’s best outing came against fellow Class 3 foe Fulton in the home opener as the Indians took control early and set the tone.

Senior Jack Dulle had a nice debut in that game as he led Osage with 73 of the team’s 317 total rushing yards and had one of four rushing touchdowns while fellow senior Matt Hans put up 46 yards and a score on the ground and also hauled in a 40-yard touchdown reception. Both senior Drew Edwards, now the quarterback, and junior tailback Kenan Webb also found the end zone on a fun offensive night and Osage’s defense forced four turnovers in the win as well.

All six returning offensive starters and all eight returning defensive starters are seniors and after learning some tough lessons from last year, they will undoubtedly be hungry to flip the script and get back to winning football in their final season as Osage Indians.

“Nothing has ever come easy to them. They have to work for everything they get and I like that about them,” Johnson previously told Game Night.

“This group will fight for everything they get.”

Well, the first test is now upon them and the rest of the team as Osage gets ready for Friday night’s battle on the road with kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m.

“This last summer seems to have flown by. Our guys have worked very hard and are ready to be able to compete on Friday night,” Johnson noted.

“We are going to have to be aggressive and consistent. We will have to limit our turnovers and convert third downs to move the chains. One thing I do know is our guys will be ready to perform.”

The countdown for another season of Osage football has begun.

TALE OF THE TAPE

Osage 2018 Finish: 2-8

Fulton 2018 Finish: 1-9

Osage 2018 Points For: 13.8

Fulton 2018 Points For: 14.7

Osage 2018 Points Against: 33.5

Fulton 2018 Points Against: 40.4