Camdenton Lakers and Versailles Tigers

Defending district champion Camdenton set for semifinal clash against Washington

The journey towards state is underway.

Every football team in the state of Missouri began the district playoffs in week 10 knowing a loss results in the end of the season and the undefeated Camdenton Lakers (10-0) got off to a great start with their postseason ambitions in a 51-27 win over Pacific (1-9) Friday night.

Camdenton put in the work over the course of the season to earn the top seed in the Class 4 District 5 Tournament which guarantees home field advantage at Bob Shore Stadium through the district championship if the Lakers can continue their winning ways.

Now, the team is eyeing a return to that district championship game to defend its district title and standing in the way is a Washington team (9-1) seeded fourth in the district that beat No. 5 Marshfield (6-4) with a late touchdown for a 20-14 win in its district opener. The district semifinal bout is set for Friday night and Camdenton coach Jeff Shore said there are likely no easy games remaining.

“It was a great start and frankly it was a good time to get some young guys in the ballgame this time of year,” the coach said after the win over eight-seeded Pacific. “Probably not going to have many games that is going to happen anymore in. It is going to be tough competition the rest of this road so it was nice to get those kids in one more time and keep everyone healthy and getting to play a little bit.”

Camdenton opened up a 45-0 lead by halftime Friday night and went on cruise control the rest of the way as the Indians were able to add a few late scores on the second-string defense of the Lakers.

Returning senior All-State quarterback Paxton DeLaurent completed 16 of his 25 passes for 213 yards and four touchdowns before exiting the game and senior wideout Collin Thomas led all receivers with four receptions for 81 yards and two touchdowns while senior receiver Antione Lockhart added three receptions for 68 yards and a score, senior wideout Talon Randazzo turned in four receptions for 35 yards and junior receiver Mason Draper waltzed into the end zone untouched on a 13-yard screen pass.

Meanwhile, sophomore running back Adrian Kline led the ground attack with 61 rushing yards on six carries that included a 22-yard touchdown run and senior tailback Ryan Maasen also found the end zone on a 1-yard rush. Senior kicker Luke Galbreath added to the rout with a 19-yard field goal and the Lakers were even able to get a defensive touchdown as senior defensive lineman Marcus Stephens recovered a high snap in the end zone.

Speaking of the defense, senior defensive lineman Cort Petty turned in 2 1/2 sacks as the “Purple Haze” finished with six on the night and seven tackles for a loss overall while forcing five turnovers. Randazzo, fellow senior defensive back Ethan Harris and Stephens all recovered fumbles while sophomore linebacker Landon Thomas and senior defensive back Jase Nicklas each intercepted a Pacific pass.

“We’ve had some guys pitch in and playing their part. I feel like the defense is playing very opportunistic right now and have been creating a lot of turnovers so we hope that keeps going,” Shore said of the defense.

Simply put, it was a solid team win with contributions in all three phases of the game and the Lakers will look to continue doing just that in the semifinal showdown with the Blue Jays.

Washington is currently scoring an average of 28.8 points per game and allowing 16.3. Comparatively, the Lakers are scoring 49.7 points per game against opponents and giving up just 14.3.

And while the Blue Jays have largely taken care of their schedule with an average margin of victory 17.1 points, it should also be noted that the combined record of all their opponents stands at 33-64. The one loss on the season for Washington came in week six to an undefeated Fort Zumwalt North team by a final score of 56-13. Meanwhile, unbeaten Camdenton’s average margin of victory is 35.4 points against a combined record of 39-62.

Fortunately, anticipating a potential matchup with Washington, Camdenton already began preparation for the Blue Jays ahead of the game with Pacific and Shore expects Washington to trot out a run-heavy offense similar to rival Lebanon’s.

“Hopefully that is a good thing for us. We’ll get to run against the same kind of offense for two weeks if we can get the win,” he said. “It is great to be at home and that is something we’ve earned during the regular season. Now we are getting the fruits of that labor a little bit… If we can keep winning we’ll keep being at home.”

Well, the home stretch may very well continue if Camdenton puts together a similar kind of performance the Lakers had in a week six 28-0 shutout against the rival Yellowjackets- an 8-2 team also in the same district semifinals. The Lakers forced three turnovers in that game and kept Lebanon out of the end zone, holding the Yellowjackets to 239 total yards of offense.

Mason continues to lead the “Purple Haze” defense with 61 total tackles on the season, of which 8 1/2 have resulted in a loss including 3 1/2 sacks. He also has an interception, forced fumble and fumble recovery to his credit. The Lakers have largely been relentless with an average of 8.6 tackles for a loss per game. Senior defensive lineman Mason Kinney has been a force up front with 35 total tackles including a team-leading 18 1/2 tackles that have resulted in a loss with six sacks while fellow senior lineman Cort Petty has been holding up his end with 30 total tackles of which 14 1/2 have resulted in a loss including a team-leading 11 1/2 sacks. Add all that to a total of 37 forced turnovers including 14 interceptions. Nicklas leads the way with five picks on the season and Randazzo has three.

It has been a compliment to a Laker offense that was already highly-productive to begin with.

DeLaurent has now thrown for 3,036 yards and 42 touchdowns in 2019 along with just five interceptions. Junior receiver Cooper Ezard continues to be the top target with 59 receptions on the year that have gone for 716 yards and 12 touchdowns. Nicklas is at 55 receptions for 786 yards and seven scores, Randazzo has totaled 30 catches for 322 yards and five touchdowns, Thomas has 22 receptions for 295 yards and four touchdowns and the Lakers hope to be getting the services of junior receiver Jadin Faulconer and junior Eli Griffin back in the fold soon, who have been out with injuries. Faulconer has 22 catches for 295 yards and seven touchdowns to go with 215 rushing yards and another seven scores. Meanwhile, Griffin was at 18 receptions for 156 yards and a touchdown and 92 rushing yards and two scores on the ground in the four games he appeared in.

The numbers look good and ultimately, the game will be obviously be decided on the field. After reaching the state quarterfinals a season ago, the Lakers are looking for the ultimate prize of a sixth state title and are now just five wins away from accomplishing that goal.

“We want to win state and have unfinished business,” DeLaurent said after Friday night’s win. “For us to get there it is week by week and you have to win each game. Washington, great season. I don’t know if they are typically this good, but this might be one of their best seasons so they are going to come in and try to win just like we are going to try to win.

“Someone is going to end their season and our goal is to end theirs.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Versailles hoping to return to district championship in battle at top-seeded Fair Grove

Versailles may have just found its groove at the right time.

After trekking through a rough 0-6 start in 2019, a group that has won three of its past four games to improve to 3-7 is now just one step away from earning a spot in a second straight district championship game. To get there the Tigers, seeded fifth in the Class 2 District 4 playoffs, had to go on the road and beat No. 4 El Dorado Springs (4-6). Versailles managed to do just that and brought the Bulldogs’ season to an end for a third straight year with a 49-22 win.

“We played a really good game on both defense and offense,” Versailles coach Broc Silvers said of the game. “A ton of players got involved in big tackles, adjusted to the field conditions in the second quarter and exploded with 35 points.”

The prize for Versailles is a ticket to the district semifinals Friday night where the Tigers will go back on the road and look to knock off top-seeded Fair Grove (9-0) who has yet to be beaten in 2019.

The Eagles are coming off a 54-6 win over No. 8 Butler (1-9) and have not received much of a threat so far this season with an average win margin of 31 points. However, the combined record of the teams Fair Grove has faced is 30-59 compared to a Versailles team that is a bit more battle-tested with a combined opponent record of 58-42. Of the 10 teams the Tigers have faced, six of them have winning records and five have lost just two games or less.

Meanwhile, the closest game Fair Grove has played in resulted in a 34-14 win at Buffalo in week eight- a team Versailles lost to 56-26 in week two. However, quite a bit of time has passed between those weeks and the Tigers appear to be firing on all cylinders.

A dynamic senior duo in Coby Williams and Dallas Waller may have something to do with that.

The pair of Tigers had a big night in the win at El Dorado Springs as Williams completed 12 of his 21 passes for 211 yards and three touchdowns while Waller caught eight of those passes and all three touchdowns for 183 receiving yards on the night. Williams also rushed for a whopping 208 yards and three more touchdowns on the ground, averaging 7.7 yards per carry, and he was even on the receiving end of a 43-yard touchdown pass from sophomore Adam Radcliff.

Williams and Waller, along with the rest of the Tigers, will need to continue making big plays if Versailles is going to beat a Fair Grove team giving up just 8.3 points per game.

Williams, a returning All-State quarterback, has now thrown for 2,067 passing yards and 18 touchdowns in 2019 while throwing just nine interceptions and he has dashed for 1,253 rushing yards and another 21 touchdowns averaging 5.9 yards per rush. Overall, he has played a role in 40 of the team’s 42 total touchdowns and his mobility has kept defenses honest. Versailles is currently averaging 30.2 points per contest.

Unsurprisingly, Waller continues to be the quarterback’s top target with 94 receptions on the season totaling 1,227 yards and 12 touchdowns. In fact, the senior has 69 more receptions than any other receiver, but he is far from being the only option in the passing game. Senior wideout Brayden Morrison has reeled in 25 catches for 261 yards and four touchdowns, junior receiver Michael Bell is at 20 receptions for 286 yards and a score and Radcliff is also over the century mark with six receptions for 109 yards and a touchdown. Overall, 11 different Tigers, including Williams, have registered at least one catch in 2019.

There is also some help on the ground as senior tailback Jordan King has accumulated 276 yards and a touchdown on 79 carries, averaging 3.5 yards per attempt. Senior running back Brycen Reynolds has also logged a few runs for Versailles with 21 carries on the year that have gone for 58 yards and a touchdown while Waller’s speed has allowed him to rush for 38 yards on 12 attempts.

Simply put, if Fair Grove has to worry about more than Williams and Waller it bodes well for the Tigers having an opportunity to play in a second straight championship game.

On the defensive side, the Tigers are currently allowing 41.5 points per outing and will be facing a Fair Grove team currently scoring an average of 45.3 points per game. The Eagles have put up no less than 27 points in any single contest and it should keep Versailles busy.

Senior linebacker Quinn Randall continues to lead the defense with 82 total tackles on the season including 7 1/2 tackles for a loss and three forced fumbles. Waller, a defensive end, also has a knack for disrupting the backfield with six tackles for a loss that are a part of 36 total tackles overall including a sack. The defense has forced 11 total turnovers overall between eight fumble recoveries and three interceptions and Bell has two of those interceptions on the year with the other belonging to Morrison. The defense also has two touchdowns on the season and a few more turnovers certainly could not hurt in Friday night’s showdown.

The last time the Tigers and Eagles got together was in the 2017 district semifinals where Fair Grove sent Versailles home with a 57-26 defeat. Silvers said this current unit may be just as good.

“They remind me of the same Fair Grove team we played two years ago. They are fast, big and athletic,” the coach noted of the next opponent. “They are like playing a version of Southern Boone, Hallsville and Boonville. We have played teams as talented as them but have not beat one yet. We will need to be sound in all phases this week.”

Should Versailles find a way to advance, a district title bout awaits the following Friday against No. 2 Lamar (8-2) or No. 3 Warsaw (7-3). Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.