Camdenton Lakers, Osage Indians, Versailles Tigers and Eldon Mustangs

Camdenton set for rematch with Pacific in first round of districts

Camdenton has done its part.

The Lakers went through the grind of the Ozark Conference, withstanding every challenge thrown their way- including tough battles with West Plains and Glendale that required some crucial plays down the stretch- and came out perfect and unbeaten at 9-0 to claim the program’s first Ozark Conference title since 2014.

As a reward, Camdenton will get to stay right at home through the entirety of the Class 4 District 5 playoffs for a second straight season- provided the Lakers continue to win each week- and three more wins would mean a second straight district title and the 28th in program history. Camdenton enters the playoffs as the top seed in the district and good thing the team kept winning, too, because the Lakers racked up 53 points while No. 2 Helias Catholic was not far behind with 50.97.

Just like last year, the postseason journey starts with a Pacific team (1-8) that just picked up its first win of the season last week against a winless St. James squad, 35-0. In 2018, Camdenton did not have too much trouble with the Indians in a 55-7 win en route to the district semifinals and the numbers certainly seem to favor the Lakers once again.

Pacific is currently scoring an average of 15 points per game and allowing 32.6. Comparatively, Camdenton is turning in 49.6 points per game with the “Purple Haze” defense giving up just 12.9. However, the game is always played on the field- not paper- and the setting is vastly different in the playoffs when all teams know that a loss results in the end of the season.

All signs are looking good for Camdenton, though, coming off a 35-0 shutout over Kickapoo in the regular season finale where the defense shined, allowing just 203 total yards while forcing seven Chiefs turnovers. Senior defensive backs Jase Nicklas and Talon Randazzo led the way with six tackles each and Nicklas forced two fumbles to go with an interception while Randazzo added an interception of his own. Senior defensive lineman Mason Draper had a nice showing as well up front with four tackles, three sacks, a forced fumble and fumble recovery for a touchdown while fellow senior defensive lineman Mason Kinney added five tackles, four tackles for a loss and two sacks of his own.

Returning senior All-State linebacker Ryan Maasen continues to lead the defensive unit with 58 total tackles on the season that includes 8 1/2 tackles for a loss, 3 1/2 sacks, an interception and forced fumble and recovery. As a whole, the team averages 8.8 tackles for a loss per game, 3.1 sacks per game and has forced 32 total turnovers including 20 fumble recoveries and 12 sacks. That is more than enough for an offense that generally does not have too much trouble finding the end zone.

Returning senior All-State quarterback Paxton DeLaurent threw for 297 yards and two touchdowns last week against Kickapoo while running in another score. He is up to 2,823 passing yards on the season with 38 touchdowns and just five interceptions and Pacific has likely not forgotten about him either after he threw 302 yards and five touchdowns against the Indians in 2018.

Junior wide receiver Cooper Ezard led the receiving corps last week with 10 receptions for 98 yards and a score and was on the receiving end of one of DeLaurent’s five touchdown passes against Pacific last season. Ezard is now at 58 receptions for 708 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2019 and he is far from alone in the high-flying passing attack.

Nicklas caught six passes for 71 yards against the Chiefs and that brings the senior up to 53 receptions for 774 yards and seven touchdowns. Junior Jadin Faulconer has pulled in 22 receptions for 295 yards and seven touchdowns, Randazzo is at 26 catches for 287 yards and five touchdowns, senior wideout Collin Thomas has 19 catches for 242 yards and two scores and junior running back Eli Griffin is up to 18 receptions for 156 yards and a touchdown.

Camdenton can still utilize the ground game as well with the team up to 586 yards and 18 touchdowns on the season, averaging 3.7 yards per carry. Faulconer has filled in nicely for Griffin while the junior was dealing with injury as he has turned in 215 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 6.3 yards per rush. DeLaurent has 209 yards and five touchdowns on the ground and Griffin will look to get back in the mix and add to his 92 yards and two touchdowns on the season.

Simply put, a game becomes much easier when multiple contributors show up each week on both sides of the ball. It is precisely why Camdenton has been able to accomplish the feat of a perfect 9-0 regular season and now the team is hoping to add a few more wins to the resume in pursuit of the program’s sixth state title. To get there, Camdenton will have to win six more games and motivation should not be an issue after falling in the Class 4 state quarterfinals by a single point in 2018.

The journey begins at Bob Shore Stadium Friday night at 7 p.m.

Osage looking to carry momentum to district battle at Salem

Osage picked a pretty good time to find some momentum.

Looking to end a five-game skid, the Indians were locked in a tight battle at Eldon until they decided to take over the second half and score 28 unanswered points in a 44-24 win over the rival Mustangs. It was the team’s best outing of the season as Osage played mistake-free football, scored on six straight drives and allowed Eldon to find the end zone only one more time after both sides were knotted up at 16 at halftime.

“It means everything to us. We have momentum going into districts now so that will be really nice for us,” said Osage senior Logan Havner who helped create that momentum with two touchdown receptions on the night- including one that went for 60 yards on the first play of the second half. “The Tri-County (Conference) is one of the hardest to play in the state of Missouri so we are feeling pretty good going into next week.”

Good thing, too, because now the situation is win or go home as the district playoffs get underway. The Indians (3-6, 2-5 Tri-County Conference) will enter the Class 3 District 5 playoffs as the fifth seed and are slated to visit No. 4 Salem (6-3) in the first round.

“The cool thing is that no matter who we play, we don’t know anything about them and they don’t know anything about us,” Osage coach Devin Johnson said before the final district standings were formulated by the end of Friday night. “We have no common opponents so we are not going to really have much to gauge off of.

“But, we do know who we played against and how we performed against them. We know in our conference we played some of the best teams in Class 3 and I don’t know if every team in our district has that on their resume so we are battle-tested and ready to be on the road and win some games. That is what we are expected to do.”

What is known about Salem is that the Tigers are currently scoring an average of 20.1 points per game and allowing 21.9, respectively. Comparatively, Osage is putting up 15.6 points and giving up 30.4 per outing.

If Osage’s offense resembles anything like the unit that took the field against Eldon last week, the Indians have a good chance to reach next week’s district semifinals. Senior quarterback Drew Edwards completed all five of his passes for 156 yards, Havner had three receptions for 84 yards and senior tailback James Hutchcraft added 102 rushing yards and three touchdowns of his own.

Edwards is up to 984 passing yards and eight touchdowns to go with six interceptions on the season and has added 188 more yards and two scores on the ground. Hutchcraft is currently at 680 rushing yards (five yards per carry) and six touchdowns to lead the ground game and also has five receptions for 114 yards and a score through the air. Havner continues to be the top receiving threat with 38 receptions for 544 yards and five touchdowns, senior Matthew Hans is another solid option with 13 receptions for 140 yards and a score and senior tight end Elijah Stark has emerged with four receptions for 98 yards of his own.

Whatever Salem brings offensively, Hutchcraft (83 tackles, four tackles for a loss and two sacks at linebacker) and senior defensive lineman Rudy Escobar (67 tackles, three tackles for a loss and six sacks) will need to be on their toes and anchor the front seven in the box.

Kickoff and an opportunity to get to the district semifinals is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Versailles to meet El Dorado Springs in first round of district playoffs

The postseason has arrived and Versailles is hoping to make a return to a district championship game the Tigers had the privilege of playing in last season and more.

Versailles (2-7, 2-5 Tri-County Conference) is coming off a tough 50-24 loss at Hallsville in the regular season finale and will be looking to get back to the football it was playing the week prior when the team had won its second straight game. The team enters the Class 2 District 4 playoffs as the fifth seed and standing in the way of the Tigers and their playoff ambitions in the first round is No. 4 El Dorado Springs (4-5).

These two sides share a little playoff history in recent years as Versailles took out the Bulldogs in the district semifinals last season by a final score of 48-36 in a high-scoring shootout and the Tigers got the best of El Dorado Springs in 2017 as well with a 34-29 win in the first round. Making it three straight wins will not be an easy task, though, as Versailles faces a Bulldog team scoring an average of 26.2 points per outing and allowing 25.2 points, respectively. By comparison, Versailles is putting up 28.1 points and giving up 43.7 per contest.

A slow start plagued the Tigers in last week’s regular season finale so Versailles will look to get things going immediately to set the right tone. The team certainly has the personnel to make it happen.

Senior quarterback Coby Williams was on the move last week at Hallsville where he rushed for 189 yards and two touchdowns and added another 234 yards and a touchdown through the air. The Bulldogs likely have not forgotten about the returning All-State field general, either after he gashed El Dorado Springs with 114 rushing yards and two scores in 2018 to go along with 281 passing yards and another three touchdowns.

This season, Williams has put together 1,856 passing yards, 1,045 passing yards and 33 total touchdowns. In fact, there are only two touchdowns on the entire season he is not responsible for, but he is far from alone out on the field.

The quarterback’s top target in 2019 has been senior wideout Dallas Waller who has hauled in 86 receptions for 1,044 yards and nine touchdowns. He finished with 13 receptions for 197 yards and two touchdowns last week and also made his presence known against El Dorado Springs last season, hauling in five catches for 69 yards and a touchdown, respectively. Fellow senior wideout Brayden Morrison is not a bad option, either, with 22 catches for 241 yards and four touchdowns on the season and he hauled in a touchdown pass against the Bulldogs last year as he went for three receptions and 54 yards. Junior receiver Michael Bell also has big playmaking potential with 20 catches for 286 yards and a touchdown and sophomore Adam Radcliff is also over the century mark with 109 yards and a touchdown of his own. Meanwhile, senior running back Jordan King provides fresh legs in the ground game with 241 yards and touchdown to his name, averaging 3.5 yards per rush.

On the defensive side, senior linebacker Quinn Randall continues to lead Versailles with 79 total tackles on the season and he has registered 30 more tackles than any other Tiger while adding 7 1/2 tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles. Waller along the defensive line has a knack for disrupting things in the backfield as well with six tackles for a loss and a sack and Bell leads the secondary with two interceptions on the season. The Tigers are undoubtedly looking to prevent another shootout with the Bulldogs and time will soon tell if this team can slow down their foes just enough.

El Dorado Springs has been through a rough stretch to end the season, losing three straight games after starting the season 4-2. Time will soon tell if Versailles can make it four straight and punch a ticket to the district semifinals next week.

The two sides will kick off in El Dorado Springs Friday night at 7 p.m.

Eldon looking to get by Buffalo in first round of district playoffs

It was a tough regular season and home finale for Eldon in its annual matchup with rival Osage Friday night.

The Mustangs were trading punches with the Indians throughout the first half and went into the locker rooms at the break tied at 16, only to see their rivals score 28 unanswered points over the next 24 minutes that led to a 44-24 defeat.

“They played with more desire and energy. The momentum shifted their way right before half and the first play of the second half,” Eldon coach Chad Hult said after Osage took its first lead of the night on a 60-yard touchdown pass to start the third quarter. “They did not make andy adjustments so we were still getting the same looks. Their kids just executed better than we did.”

Well, Eldon (1-8, 1-6 Tri-County Conference) will have to get things quickly turned around as one more loss would spell the end of the season. The Mustangs begin postseason play in the Class 3 District 5 Tournament as the seventh seed and will visit No. 2 Buffalo (7-2) Friday night at 7 p.m.

“We’ll get a couple of kids back which will help, but we’ve preached week 10 all year so now it’s time to perform,” Hult said of the challenge that awaits Friday night. “The message is simple- win or your season is done.”

The two sides have shared one common opponent this season in Versailles and the Bison were able to take down the Tigers 56-26 in week two while Eldon fell to its Highway 52 neighbor 49-26 in week eight.

Eldon’s defense- currently allowing 46.6 points per game- will have to be sharp Friday night as the Mustangs will line up against a Bison team currently averaging 41.1 points per contest. Only once this season has Buffalo failed to score 36 points or more and it all starts with junior quarterback Jamen Smith who is a dangerous dual-threat talent. Smith has 1, 226 passing yards on the year to go with 17 touchdowns and five interceptions and he also leads the team in rushing with 658 yards and nine scores on the ground, averaging 8.9 yards per attempt. Containing Smith will be absolutely crucial for the Mustangs to be able to come out on top.

Buffalo also has four more rushers who have eclipsed at least 200 rushing yards on the season and have combined for 14 touchdowns. The biggest threat through the air is sophomore Cameron Portis who has 450 receiving yards and six touchdowns and junior Bode Abraham is not too far behind him with 432 receiving yards and five touchdowns of his own.

The Buffalo defense is currently allowing 17.2 points per outing and the best formula for Eldon’s offense is being able to move the chains and soak up clock with a relentless rushing attack. That will also keep the ball out of the hands of a dynamic playmaker at quarterback on the other sideline. The Mustangs were successfully doing just that in the first half against Osage last week, putting together a scoring drive on the opening possession of the game that racked up 10 minutes before the Mustangs found the end zone. Eldon also successfully converted five fourth down plays for first downs in the first half before Osage found its groove in the second half.

The Mustangs are currently putting up 22 points per game and will need another solid night from the likes of senior fullback Kaden Dillon who led the team with 93 rushing yards and a touchdown against Osage, averaging 3.4 yards per carry. Sophomore quarterback Dallas Hardy will also be key as he added 77 yards, averaging 5.5 yards per carry, and also threw a touchdown pass to senior receiver Gabe Marriott while finishing with 28 yards through the air.

Dillon continues to be the rushing leader in the run-heavy Wing-T offense with 996 yards (4.8 yards per carry) and 13 touchdowns. Hardy is up to 693 yards (5.9 yards per carry) and eight touchdowns and junior tailback Braydy Hill is at 446 yards (4.9 yards per carry) and three scores of his own. Should Eldon get the Bison defense to bite on the rushing game, junior tight end P.J. Bledsoe is not a bad option in the air with three receptions for 59 yards and a score along with senior wideout Nathaniel Wardenburg (two receptions for 56 yards) or Marriott (three receptions for 52 yards). Hardy has currently put together 224 passing yards for two touchdowns along with eight interceptions.

Now it is win or go home and a trip to the district semifinals is on the line. Time to see if Eldon has what it takes to make it there for a fifth straight year.