Camdenton Lakers, Osage Indians, Eldon Mustangs and Versailles Tigers

Camdenton set for Ozark Conference showdown with West Plains

A highly-anticipated week has arrived.

Camdenton, the third-ranked team in the Class 4 statewide media poll after week one, will meet defending Ozark Conference champion West Plains who was ranked number eight in the same exact poll. The Zizzers (2-0), like the Lakers (2-0), reached the state quarterfinals in 2018 before bowing out to state champion Ladue Horton Watkins for their only loss and were the only team able to beat Camdenton besides fellow state quarterfinalist Webb City.

The Lakers will be home this time when the two teams clash Friday night at 7 p.m. and looking for some revenge after West Plains handed Camdenton a tough 41-7 defeat on a rainy night in last season’s meeting. If Camdenton is to keep an early undefeated season with high expectations intact, the Lakers certainly showed a lot of positive signs from a week two 63-7 thumping at Parkview.

Playing like a state-ranked team, Camdenton quickly jumped out to a 49-7 lead by halftime and senior All-State quarterback Paxton DeLaurent had a milestone night as he took down his Head Coach Shore’s old school record for career passing touchdowns.

DeLaurent went 31-43 for 342 passing yards and seven touchdowns while rushing for another 18 yards and a score. The senior threw the 52nd touchdown of his career to get the record and if there is any indication of how productive Camdenton’s offense has been, it only took him a little over one season to accomplish it. The Lakers had one of the best offenses in the state of Missouri in 2018, averaging 46.3 points per game, and the offense has kept its stride so far this season averaging 51 so far.

But DeLaurent’s accomplishments would not be complete without a reliable receiving corps and the unit has stepped up after losing about 83 percent of its production from last year’s seniors. The quarterback has been able to continue spreading the ball around to a plethora of targets to keep the passing game lethal so far in 2019.

Junior wideout Cooper Ezard had a big game for the Lakers in the win over Parkview hauling in eight passes for 112 yards and three touchdowns Senior receiver Jase Nicklas caught seven passes for 72 yards and a score, fellow senior Talon Randazzo added six receptions for 36 yards and a score, junior running back Eli Griffin caught a 15-yard touchdown pass and senior tight end Mason Kinney caught a 2-yard touchdown pass. Sophomore receiver Cale Bentley also got into the mix, catching an 8-yard touchdown strike from junior quarterback Jacob Worsley.

The “Purple Haze” defense of Camdenton has also been just as effective, allowing just 9.5 points per game. Camdenton only gave up 94 total yards of offense to Parkview, including an eye-opening three rushing yards as senior defensive lineman Cort Petty had 3.5 tackles for a loss and the team finished with eight for the night. The Lakers are averaging nearly 11 tackles for a loss per game and that bodes well for the future. Randazzo also helped to keep the secondary sharp with an interception and the defense recovered three fumbles.

Camdenton will need it to all come together against a West Plains team that beat Hillcrest 42-14 in the opener and Rolla 55-7 last week, averaging 48.5 points per contest and allowing 10.5.

“They are very good, look even better than last year on film,” Camdenton coach Jeff Shore said. “Their quarterback (Connor Rackley) and running back (Brayden Lidgard) are tremendous, both have played on varsity since their freshman year. Should be a great ballgame.”

Rackley threw for 1,186 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2018 with just four interceptions while Lidgard dashed for 2,387 yards and 37 touchdowns, averaging 9.1 yards per carry. Lidgard also caught 10 passes for another 232 yards and three touchdowns.

The Lakers are looking for their first win over the Zizzers since a 54-41 win in 2016 and it should be quite a battle between two Class 4 powers that could also have big implications in the conference title race.

Time will soon tell who is ready to step up and take the mantle.

Osage needing to sharpen up for Tri-County Conference opener against California

Miscues were costly for Osage in the home opener against Moberly Friday night.

Despite a valiant effort from a defense that gave up just 10 offensive points, five turnovers eventually took their toll in a 17-7 loss to the Spartans. There is plenty of football left to clean those miscues up, though, as the Indians get ready to open up Tri-County Conference play against California Friday night at 7 p.m.

“In the first half we ran 35 offensive plays and they ran 22 so if you just take that number you’re thinking things are going well for us and we were down 17-0,” Osage coach Devin Johnson said after the game.

“Offensively, we gave them five extra possessions and you just can’t do that and win many games.”

Speaking of that offense, Osage showed flashes of its potential as the unit racked up 336 total yards on the night. Even with three interceptions and two coughed up fumbles, with one of those interceptions being returned for a touchdown, the Indians were able to reach Spartan territory for most of the evening.

Senior quarterback Drew Edwards completed 12 of his 23 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown that went to senior running back Jack Dulle on a dump for 39 yards. Senior running back James Hutchcraft provided 70 rushing yards on 13 carries and caught a 115-yard pass while Dulle also rushed for 20 yards on five carries and young sophomore quarterback Brockton McLaughlin went 4-11 for 68 yards. One of the brightest sparks was 6-foot-4 senior receiver Logan Havner pulling down nine receptions for 144 yards.

“He has really progressed from a couple of years ago to where he is now. He is a big tall receiver for us and is kind of a ‘jump ball’ guy,” the coach said of Havner. “What he does a really tremendous job of is putting his body in the right position to where he is between the ball and defender. He does not out-jump you, but he really does a good job of spatial awareness of where he is in relation to the field and defense.

“There were a couple of balls there he maybe should not have come down with, but was able to plant his foot in the ground and go get. He has been a big part of our offense.”

The duo of Havner and Hutchcraft, who has totaled 174 rushing yards in two games (5.3 yards per carry) have emerged as a solid combination to keep the Osage offense productive and balanced so far.

And even with all of Moberly’s extra possessions, the Spartans never made it past Osage’s 24-yard line after two early scoring drives until the end of the game with the clock winding down the final few seconds. Johnson commended his defense’s ability to control the line of scrimmage and force what he described as a downhill power running team in Moberly to make adjustments and bounce around looking for holes with no clear easy running lanes.

“Our defense played really well last week too so I thought they carried over the same momentum,” the coach said after his team gave up just six points to Fulton in the season opener. “It is really unfortunate because our guys played very hard.”

Osage (1-1) will meet a California team (0-2) that has struggled early losing to Lighthouse Christian and Mexico by a combined score of 96 to 18. Like Osage, California has had a few struggles with turnovers in the young 2019 season and if the Indians can come away playing the cleaner game, chances bode well to add another win. The potential on both sides of the ball is already fairly evident and should take care of itself with good preparation. The defense is allowing just 11.5 points per game so far and the offense is averaging 267 yards respectively.

Osage managed to beat a winless Pintos team 13-7 last year, but Johnson noted there are no easy weeks in the Tri-County Conference.

“California has got a new head coach and their offense is pretty similar to ours,” he said. “They changed it up a little bit defensively, they are a 3-4 team… We know they have some pretty good athletes and are really looking to turn around over there.”

Eldon hoping to rebound for Hallsville after tough ending with Owensville

It has been a tough start for Eldon so far in 2019.

After a 54-8 loss at Bolivar in the season opener, the Mustangs came home to take on Owensville for the home opener and things were looking up with a 10-point lead in the third quarter. Then heartbreak ensued as the Mustangs came from behind to tie the game on a touchdown with 55 seconds remaining, only to see the Dutchmen punch in the game-winning touchdown with six seconds remaining.

The result was a 36-30 defeat that pushed Eldon to 0-2 and now the team is looking to regroup for its Tri-County Conference opener at Hallsville Friday night at 7 p.m.

Eldon coach Chad Hult was understandably disappointed with the outcome, stressing to his team after the game that they need to build from this outcome and respond to the adversity. He says that the effort by the team was better than the week prior, but he is still hoping to see more in week three.

“A game like this can define your season,” he said. “We have to respond.”

Well, Eldon will get that opportunity against a Hallsville team (1-1) that is coming off a tough loss of their own at Ava by a final score of 28-26. The Indians opened up the season with a pleasant 40-0 shutout over Father Tolton and will look to bounce back for some revenge against an Eldon team that managed to come away with a 6-0 shutout on home turf in the pouring rain in 2018.

“Hallsville is a well-coached team that plays extremely hard. Defensively, they rally to the ball well and prevent the big play,” Hult said of the week three opponent. “They have good team speed on that side of the ball. Up front they are quick and aggressive. Their linebackers do a good job of playing downhill.”

The Indian offense may present a few challenges as well.

“On offense they like to use different formations to spread you out. They have two talented running backs and both run hard and are a load to bring down,” the coach continued. “They are a run first team so we have to play physical at the line of scrimmage.”

One thing Eldon showed in the transition from week one to week two is that there are some weapons on the offensive side of the ball who are capable of moving the chains.

Mustang senior fullback Kaden Dillon had a breakout game for Eldon, bulldozing his way forward for 199 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 34 carries, averaging 5.9 yards per carry. Dillon has now moved to 255 rushing yards on the season, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Meanwhile, young sophomore quarterback Dallas Hardy showed his mobility with 78 rushing yards on 16 carries and has improved his season total to 198 yards while senior receiver Nathaniel Wardenburg added another 46 yards on 14 attempts and is up to 60 yards in 2019.

Eldon is at its best when it can simply run over defenses in the rushing game of the Wing-T offense, but the Mustangs also showed the potential of the passing game. Hardy attempted just five passes but he had two completions with one of them going to Wardenburg for a big 44-yard gain while junior tight end P.J. Bledsoe also got involved on a 9-yard catch. If the running game can continue to be successful and draw plenty of attention up front, the passing game can become even more effective moving forward catching opponents off guard.

If Eldon is to secure its first win of 2019 Friday night, the Mustangs must cut down on big plays and make the opposing team earn any points they get as the first two weeks demonstrated. The Dutchmen of Owensville put up 299 rushing yards of their own while adding another 48 yards through the air, scoring one of their touchdowns on a 61-yard play.

There were certainly signs of improvement for Eldon in week two. Time will soon tell if they provide the response Hult is looking for and continue to progress forward against Hallsville.

Versailles regrouping for Tri-County Conference opener against Southern Boone

It has been tough sledding for Versailles so far in 2019.

Miscues plagued the Tigers in the season-opening 50-20 loss to Knob Noster as the Panthers took advantage of several turnovers and Buffalo did not make things any easier with its bruising rushing attack that dealt the Tigers a 56-26 loss in week two. Another tough challenge lies ahead Friday night when Versailles opens up Tri-County Conference play at Southern Boone.

The Eagles were ranked as the sixth best Class 3 team in the state in the latest media poll and a win would certainly provide some nice momentum. Versailles was able to take down a state-ranked Southern Boone team 30-22 last season and is looking to make things go their way again when the two sides kick off at 7 p.m.

The Tigers have gotten off to decent starts in both outings so far this season. Senior Dallas Waller was able to return a kickoff 81 yards that set Versailles up for a quick touchdown in response to Knob Noster’s opening touchdown in week one and only trailed Buffalo 14-6 after the first quarter. The problem for Versailles has been keeping pace over the course of a full game.

One area Versailles must absolutely make improvements in besides turnovers is rushing defense as the first two opponents have totaled 537 rushing yards, averaging 7.4 yards per carry, that has led to 378 yards and 53 points per game. Buffalo was able to power ahead for 299 rushing yards, averaging about eight yards per carry respectively. The Tigers have racked up just eight total tackles for a loss in the backfield and have yet to record a sack on 15 passing attempts and the Bison were able to throw for 207 yards as well. Senior linebacker Quinn Randall has shown some consistency on that side of the ball, however, leading the team with 15 total tackles through two games.

“We will have to play the counter much better than we did last week defensively and not make as many mental mistakes,” Versailles coach Broc Silvers said in anticipation for Southern Boone.

Meanwhile, the Versailles offense has shown some positive signs early in 2019, averaging 312 yards and 23 points per game itself.

Returning senior All-State quarterback Coby Williams led the Tigers with 170 rushing yard and four touchdowns on 16 carries while completing 25 of his 44 pass attempts for another 169 yards against Buffalo. Unfortunately, Williams also had two interceptions on the night. The speedy senior is up to 257 rushing yards through two games, averaging 7.3 yards per carry and has thrown for 311 yards as well.

Waller has also shown his playmaking ability after compiling seven receptions for 109 yards to add to his season total of 139 yards and senior wideout Brayden Morrison (six receptions, 54 yards) provided another target with two receptions for 33 yards while senior receiver Michael Bell added three receptions for 27 yards. Senior tailback Jordan King added to the ground game as well with 14 yards on five carries and is up to 47 yards in 2019, averaging 3.3 yards per carry.

Everyone will need to be in sync for a Southern Boone team (2-0) that beat Mexico 20-0 in the opener and Fulton 48-18 last week, averaging 34 points per contest and allowing just nine points respectively. The Tigers proved they were capable of knocking off a state-ranked team last season and there is obviously still plenty of time to turn things around.

Time will soon tell if that turnaround begins with the Eagles as Versailles makes its first road trip of the season.