Osage Indians, Versailles Tigers, Camdenton Lakers and Eldon Mustangs

Keys to the game for Versailles and School of the Osage

The first Lake area battle of the 2019 season will get underway Friday night when Versailles (0-6, 0-4 Tri-County Conference) hosts School of the Osage (2-4, 1-3 Tri-County Conference) at 7 p.m.

Both sides come into the contest needing a momentum boost. Osage has not felt the joy of victory since a win over California on September 13 and have suffered three straight losses as a result to some good teams in Hallsville, Boonville and Southern Boone by a combined score of 122 to 35. The opponent that will line up across from them Friday night is still in search of its first win in 2019 after some tough battles that have simply not gone the team’s way.

Last season, the Tigers knocked off the Indians 29-13 for the team’s first win over Osage since 2010. Time will soon tell who picks up that much-needed momentum and will leave the field smiling after week seven.

VERSAILLES KEYS

1. All Four Quarters

It has been tough sledding for Versailles as an 0-6 start is not what the team had in mind after finishing 2018 with a record of 7-5 with a district championship appearance. In fact, the team has not had a start like this since a winless 2013 season. The Tigers have shown some sparks of their potential at times this year, whether it was engaging in a shootout with state-ranked Southern Boone or putting up some nice numbers that nearly led to a win against California. However, the unfortunate result and constant theme of 2019 has been not finishing all four quarters as opponents have either put Versailles in a hole too deep to dig out of or have done just enough down the stretch that put a win out of reach. The past cannot be changed, but the Tigers can always choose how to respond. Be successful from start to finish for all four quarters, treat each play like the score is tied and Versailles may like what it sees on the scoreboard for the first time this season when the clock hits zero.

2. Bring The Balance

Versailles has some nice pieces on offense to attack an Indian defense giving up 26.5 points per game off balance. It all starts with returning senior All-State quarterback Coby Williams who has done some nice things in 2019, throwing for 1,157 yards and eight touchdowns while rushing for another 689 yards on the ground to go with another 12 scores. He is not alone, though, as senior tailback Jordan King has rushed for 183 yards, averaging 3.9 yards per carry, and 10 different Tigers have logged at least one reception in 2019. Senior receiver Dallas Waller has been a big target for Williams with 57 receptions for 607 yards and five touchdowns and fellow senior Brayden Morrison (18 receptions, 190 yards, two touchdowns) and junior Michael Bell (14 receptions, 104 yards) can do some damage as well. Osage allowed one Southern Boone receiver to rack up four touchdown receptions last week and as long as the Tigers can get a plethora of different players involved in moving the chains, finding the end zone should not be too difficult.

3. Eyes on the Two H’s

Osage is currently averaging 12.6 points per game and although the team has not put up more than 21 points in any game all season, it does not mean the Indians are without some dangerous offensive weapons. A pair of Indians the Versailles defense will surely have to keep eyes on all night are senior running back James Hutchcraft and senior receiver Logan Havner. Hutchcraft has accounted for over half of the team’s rushing yards in 2019, averaging 4.4 yards per carry and has logged all but two of the team’s rushing touchdowns. Meanwhile, Havner is Osage’s top receiving threat with 44 percent of the team’s yards through the air and has caught 20 more passes than any other Indian. Versailles knows all too well what a dynamic rushing-receiving duo can do after last week’s loss to Boonville and must turn things around. Senior linebacker Quinn Randall has led the charge with 47 tackles, including 5.5 tackles for a loss, and he currently has 22 more tackles than any other Tiger. He and the rest of the defense will need to be on their toes and forcing a few turnovers might help as the team has picked up just five on the season. Osage has 11 total turnovers in 2019 including eight interceptions and three lost fumbles.

OSAGE KEYS

1. Start Off Strong

There has been a constant theme the past three weeks that have led to losses for School of the Osage- getting off to a bad start or having one bad quarter. Hallsville opened up with 24 points in the second quarter, Boonville scored 21 in the first quarter two weeks ago and Southern Boone put up 27 points in the first quarter that left the Indians with a tough mountain to climb. The bright side is that the team showed some fight, staying within striking distance the past two weeks before the opponent eventually pulled away. So, if the Indians can just set the right tone early, a few more wins may be added to the season total. Friday night is a good opportunity to do that against a winless team and regain some of the momentum that led to a 2-1 start. Despite dominating the annual series with Versailles in recent years, the Indians will still have to earn it as the Tigers still employ some of the weapons who caused Osage to drop its first game to Versailles in eight years. Time to see if this team still has some fight left.

2. Unleash With the Run

Osage will be facing a Versailles defense giving up 50.6 points per game and a good chunk of those points have been given up by allowing opposing teams to average 8.7 yards per run. That will make leading rusher James Hutchcraft happy as the senior has totaled 430 yards and three touchdowns on the ground and there are other Indians who can move the chains as fellow senior tailback Jack Dulle has rushed for 106 yards (3.5 yards per carry) and senior quarterback Drew Edwards has added 79 yards and two scores on the ground. Sophomore Connor Kinder has shown some playmaking ability as well with 74 yards (9.3 yards per carry). If the offensive line can push the Tiger’s defensive front around a little bit, that should help open up the passing game and keep pressure off Edwards (775 passing yards, six touchdowns) where the Indians have plenty of options as well. Havner continues to lead the Osage passing attack with 28 receptions for 367 yards and two touchdowns while Dulle (eight receptions, 127 yards, two touchdowns) and Hutchcraft (four receptions, 108 yards, one touchdown) are nice weapons from the backfield. Senior wideout Matthew Hans can also do some damage with eight receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown as well. The running game must be established first to help mix things up, but as long as the Indians keep the Tigers reactionary and unable to anticipate what is coming, putting up more than 21 points in a game will not seem far-fetched.

3. Eyes on the Two W’s

Don’t let the 0-6 start fool you. This Versailles team is currently averaging 24.3 points per game and there are a pair of Tigers who have the ability to make big plays on any given snap. One of those players is returning All-State senior quarterback Coby Williams who has accounted for 89 percent of the team’s offensive yards and all 20 of the team’s touchdowns. Keeping him contained inside the pocket and making him have to beat Osage with his arm will be crucial for the team’s success Friday night. Another player the Indians must slow down is senior receiver Dallas Waller who has established himself as the biggest receiving threat. Waller has 35 more receptions than any other Tiger and has racked up 52 percent of the receiving yards so forcing Williams to find other options will help. The Indians have guys who can apply pressure in Hutchcraft at linebacker (53 tackles, two tackles for a loss, two sacks), and senior defensive lineman Rudy Escobar (43 tackles, three tackles for a loss, four sacks) among others. The defense has picked up just six turnovers all season, but Williams has thrown eight interceptions so there may be opportunity to add to that if the pressure is there.

Camdenton back on the road to face Glendale in air assault showdown

The pigskin will spend a lot of time in the air Friday night.

For anyone who is a fan of the passing game, the battle between Camdenton (6-0) and Glendale (4-2) Friday night in Springfield should be circled on the calendar as both offenses utilize pass-heavy schemes to move the chains and find the end zone.

On one side is a Camdenton offense averaging 52 points per game led by senior quarterback Paxton DeLaurent who has thrown for 1,860 yards and 27 touchdowns to just three interceptions while junior quarterback Jacob Worsley has added another 200 yards and three touchdowns for a team total of 2,060 yards, 30 touchdowns and three picks. Add a total of 326 rushing yards and the Lakers as a whole are averaging 397.7 yards per game.

On the other is a Glendale offense averaging 36 points per game led by senior field general Gavin Watts who has thrown for 1,996 yards of his own for 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions. The Falcons have thrown 2,069 yards overall for 21 touchdowns and eight picks to go with 139 rushing yards for an average of 368 yards per game.

Let the air battle commence.

Camdenton is coming off a big win at rival Lebanon where the Lakers shut down the Yellowjackets 28-0 in a battle of state-ranked teams that also had big district seeding implications. Lebanon was just ahead of Camdenton for the top seed up until Friday night in a statement win for the visitors who will keep the Highway 5 trophy for a third straight year.

“It was definitely a great game, but we have to move on now,” Camdenton coach Jeff Shore said after Friday night’s win. “We have a chance to win out here and win a conference title so that is what we are focused on. We may see these guys again, so who knows if this will be a one-and-done deal.”

When a lot of focus can easily be drawn by the numbers Camdenton’s offense has put up this season, the “Purple Haze” defense may have been the highlight of the night as they held a Lebanon team averaging 39.8 points per game scoreless, allowing just 239 total yards of offense of which 200 came on the ground. Returning All-State senior linebacker Ryan Maasen led the charge with 11 tackles as the unit finished with six tackles for a loss and three sacks while senior defensive back Jase Nicklas scooped up a fumble and intercepted a pass and senior defensive lineman Mason Kinney finished with six tackles with three resulting in a loss to go with a fumble recovery.

Shore commended the defensive effort and defensive coordinator Nick Bruck, noting that the speed of the defense was vital in slowing down what had been a fairly successful Lebanon offense.

Overall, the defense is allowing an average of just 190 yards and 10 points per game while picking up 9.5 tackles for a loss per game and nearly three sacks. A total of eight interceptions, led by Nicklas’ three on the season and 11 recovered fumbles does not hurt the cause either.

It certainly benefits an offense that has not needed that much help this season if the numbers are any indication. The Lakers will be facing a Glendale defense giving up 18.8 points per contest.

Junior wideout Cooper Ezard put up eight receptions for 79 yards and a touchdown in the win over Lebanon and Nicklas finished with eight receptions of his own for 43 yards while senior wideout Jadin Faulconer added 69 yards and a touchdown on the ground, filling in for the injured Eli Griffin, and Maasen bulldozed ahead for 13 yards and a touchdown from his fullback spot.

Through six games, Nicklas leads the receiving corps with 37 receptions for 571 yards and six touchdowns while Ezard has logged 35 catches for 424 yards and 10 touchdowns, Faulconer is up to 17 receptions for 230 yards and five scores to go with a team-leading 104 rushing yards on the season and another two touchdowns. Griffin, who has appeared in just three games this season before his injury, hopes to return soon and will look to add upon his 82 rushing yards and two scores on the ground to go with 13 receptions for 131 yards and a score

Meanwhile, Glendale got by Kickapoo last week 26-21 and takes a two-game winning streak into Friday night’s Ozark Conference showdown. The Falcons do not pose much of a rushing threat other than Watts who has totaled 112 yards on the season for three touchdowns, averaging three yards per carry so containing the quarterback will be key. The Laker secondary will need to keep eyes on several Falcon receivers as well, though. Jack Clinkenbeard leads the passing attack with 38 receptions for 573 yards and four touchdowns and Ben Shoemaker (28 receptions, 550 yards, nine touchdowns) and Chris Floyd (38 receptions, 475 yards, six touchdowns) pose a threat as well. There are six different Falcons who have caught a touchdown pass so far this season in an offense very similar to Camdenton’s.

Camdenton won last season’s battle 68-34 and will be in pursuit of a third straight win over Glendale when the team makes the trip to Springfield Friday night at 7 p.m. If the offense continues to roll and the defense can maintain the discipline it has shown so far this season, the undefeated record has a good chance of staying intact as the team inches closer to a conference title.

Eldon hoping to maintain some momentum for battle with Boonville

Eldon got the proverbial monkey off the back last week by knocking off California 44-36 and picked a good time to do it, too, on Homecoming night.

“We’ve been going against tough teams, you know, and we’ve been grinding every week. This feels good, we’ve been working real hard for this,” Eldon sophomore quarterback Dallas Hardy said after his team’s first win of 2019.

Now that the Mustangs (1-5, 1-3 Tri-County Conference) have tasted victory for the first time this season, they would love nothing more than to do so again when Boonville (5-1) comes to town Friday night in a Tri-County Conference clash at Victor Field set for 7 p.m.

The Pirates, ranked seventh in the statewide media poll entering week six, will present some challenges, though, as they come to Eldon with a three-game winning streak after knocking off Versailles 48-21 last week. Boonville currently averages 34 points per game and have not scored any less than 19 points in any contest while the defense allows just 17.8 points per outing, respectively. The team’s lone loss of the season came against an undefeated Blair Oaks squad that is currently ranked as the top team in Class 3 so losing is not a thing this team is accustomed to.

“I have not seen a whole of them yet. I know they have a lot of team speed and that is something we lack a little bit so we are going to have to work on that and shore up our tackling a little bit for them,” Eldon coach Chad Hult said after Friday night’s win over California.

The coach’s initial thoughts are not misleading.

A pair of Pirates who have been paramount to the team’s success so far in 2019 are senior running back Avian Thomas and senior wideout Trammel Coleman. The former set a school record last week when he gashed Versailles for 371 rushing yards and five scores and the latter caught three passes for 39 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Thomas has 981 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns to his name through the first six games, averaging 8.8 yards per carry, while Coleman leads the receiving corps with 20 cases for 256 yards and five touchdowns of his own. Coleman is also the team’s second-leading rusher with 164 yards and a touchdown on the ground, averaging 9.1 yards per carry.

Boonville senior quarterback Nick Ferrari has thrown for 568 yards overall with six touchdowns and five interceptions and another name to watch for is Andrew Wiser who has rushed for 153 yards and three touchdowns with a healthy 6.4 yards per attempt.

Stopping Thomas and Coleman will be vital for an Eldon defense giving up 45 points per game. If the Mustangs can at least slow down those two, upsetting a state-ranked team should be within reach.

That goal will become even more of a reality if Eldon can get off to another start like it did against California. The Mustangs simply lined up and galloped through the heart of California’s defense, scoring on their first five drives, and took a decent chunk of time off the clock in doing so, too.

Hardy rushed for 171 yards and two scores and two other Mustangs crossed the century mark as well as senior fullback Kaden Dillon added 170 yards and a touchdown while junior running back Braydy Hill put up 109 yards and two touchdowns of his own. The team rushed for 460 yards overall, thanks to the push up from by the offensive linemen.

“Those guys are incredible. They are coming together as a ground and it is fun to watch those guys grow and enjoy what they do,” Hult said of the offensive line. “They take a lot of pride in running the football so I love seeing that out of linemen.”

Should the running game continue to be successful, it may draw Boonville defenders in just enough for the Mustangs to sneak some receivers behind them and gain some big yards through the air. Hardy attempted just two passes in the win over California, but one of them went to junior tight end P.J. Bledsoe for a 41-yard touchdown strike.

Through the first six games, Eldon is averaging 20.3 points and enjoyed its most productive outing of the season last week against the Pintos. Dillon continues to be the lead back with 642 yards and six touchdowns on the ground, averaging five yards per carry. Hardy is up to 535 rushing yards (6.2 yards per carry) and seven touchdowns and Hill is up to 168 yards (4.4 yards per carry) and two scores.

Senior receiver Nathaniel Wardenburg can also provide some fresh legs with his 147 rushing yards (3.9) yards per carry and is an option in the passing game with two receptions for 56 yards. Bledsoe is now up to three caches for 59 yards and a score and Dillon has some hands in the backfield with four catches for 22 yards.

Overall, Eldon will need to dictate the tempo and the longer Thomas and Coleman are on the sidelines, the better. Last season, Boonville handed Eldon a 34-21 loss and time will tell what this chapter has in store.