This current batch of undefeated Lakers added another chapter to the lore and legacy of Laker football with a 35-7 win over Lebanon for a second straight district title and the 28th in program history.
Camdenton senior Jase Nicklas is not ready to wrap up the football season.
Turns out, his teammates felt the same way as this current batch of undefeated Lakers added another chapter to the lore and legacy of Laker football with a 35-7 win over Lebanon for a second straight district title and the 28th in program history.
“It just goes to show the heart and soul of Camdenton,” said Nicklas who made two big defensive stops to end a pair of Lebanon drives via an interception and pass breakup for a turnover on downs. “We’re out here every week playing as hard as we can and that is what our team is about. That is what we wanted to show is our hard work and how hard we play.”
Well, the team’s effort certainly did not seem to be in question- especially not after the first drive of the night.
Lebanon returned the opening kickoff of the Class 4 District 5 championship to the 50-yard line and proceeded to punch in the contest’s first score on an 8-yard Qaumeire Wright touchdown run on 4th-and-2 with 6:33 left in the first quarter. The Yellowjackets did not score a single point the rest of the night as the “Purple Haze” defense of Camdenton settled in and began to resemble the same defense that shut out Lebanon earlier this season.
“I cannot say enough about the defense,”Camdenton coach Jeff Shore said, crediting the efforts of assistants Nick Bruck, Tim McDuffey, Charlie Gordon and Cole Walker. “You could feel it. Once they (Lebanon) got down more than one score they knew it was going to be tough sledding for them and our defense played fantastic.”
And it did not take long for that to happen, either. Trailing in a game for the first time in over a month since an October 11 Ozark Conference battle at Glendale, Camdenton needed only five plays and 46 seconds to tie the game up on a 69-yard sweep to junior running back Jadin Faulconer. He was back in the end zone on the very next offensive series as well as the “Hogs” up front on the offensive line cleared some room for a 17-yard run to the house to give the Lakers the lead.
“We rode the hot hand there. Jadin was hot and had a couple of weeks where he was injured and is pretty fresh right now,” Shore noted. “He is one of the fastest guys around and we just kind of saw something there that was working so we hit that a little bit more than we usually do.”
With so much attention drawn to Camdenton’s passing attack in Shore’s “Purple Tide” offense, the Lakers were able to utilize some plays from the old playbook and let the “Hogs” loose in the ground attack. Faulconer, who finished with a team-leading 139 rushing yards on just 12 carries, was more than happy to credit his blockers.
“Just the ‘Purple Power’ we got in us. We get the job done when we have to,” the junior said.
“They do a great job. I think Mason Kinney does a great job kicking out and Ryan Maasen, my main fullback, and Elias Ramirez, the power back, both do great jobs and wonders at blocking.”
After forcing a second straight three-and-out, Camdenton scored on its third straight drive as senior quarterback Paxton DeLaurent pump faked and extended the ball over the goal line for a 4-yard touchdown run. His 2-point conversion pass to Nicklas made it 21-7 and the Lakers were knocking on the door again just before halftime after getting the ball to the Yellowjackets 8-yard line before turning the ball over on downs.
Not to worry, though, because Camdenton finished the job on the opening drive of the second half with a 9-yard touchdown pass from DeLaurent to junior receiver Cooper Ezard. It was the first of the junior’s two touchdown catches on the night as he led all receivers with four catches for 73 yards and the second score came on a 47-yard strike to erase any remaining doubt about the outcome.
“We worked really hard this week and just thinking about it right now is awesome,” Ezard said. “Just going back and looking at all we worked on this week, being able to see how we applied it to the field and everything we did.”
DeLaurent completed 13 of his 22 pass attempts for 178 yards and added 77 yards on the ground. Reminiscent of teams from the past, the Lakers finished with 234 rushing yards.
Before the final touchdown pass, Lebanon was relegated to a third straight three-and-out and managed to set Camdenton back on its own goal line after the punt. DeLaurent and company managed to avoid a safety and the quarterback reversed the field on a solid punt of his own that put the Yellowjackets back on their own 15-yard line. Moments later, Nicklas pulled down the interception that set up Ezard’s second touchdown of the night.
The Laker defense remained strong, giving up just 169 yards of offense including 161 on the ground. Nicklas later broke up a pass to force a turnover on downs and Maasen also had a big stop as the linebacker halted a 1-yard run on 4th-and-6 with the Yellowjackets threatening on the Camdenton 9-yard line.
“We wanted to come out here and shut them out again. That would have been awesome, but that is a great offense right there,” Nicklas pointed out. “You have to do your job every single play or they’ll do that to you. They are going to score and that is the point of it.
“Got our foot underneath us after that first score and we were like, ‘Ok, nothing else after this,’ and we just put our ears down and went at it.”
The reward is a rematch in the Class 4 state quarterfinals against 11-1 Webb City. The Cardinals have only lost to an unbeaten Class 6 Joplin team and were ranked as the top team in the statewide media poll entering Friday night’s contest. The Lakers were ranked second in that same poll and will look to cast aside the memories of last season’s tough 28-27 defeat on the road.
Nicklas, for one, is only focused on the opportunity that lies ahead.
“It is another game, that is all it is. They are a great team and have had a great history and we’ve had a great history, but they are not going to come out here looking at our history and we are not going to go out there looking at their history,” the senior said of the matchup between two Hall of Fame programs that have collected a combined 19 state titles.
“We’re looking at this year. The previous years don’t matter right now. We are going to go out and get them this week. That is the goal.”
The good news is that this time, the Lakers will get to be at home and it will be the team’s sixth straight week at Bob Shore Stadium when the two sides meet on Friday night at 7 p.m. Camdenton has now won 19 in a row at home.
“Our kids earned it in the regular season with their play… and it is a home field advantage. Any time you get to play at Bob Shore Stadium, aka the ‘J.O.D.,’ (Jaws of Death) it is a good day,” Shore said. “Our kids will be ready to play, lay it on the line and we’ll see what happens.
“Obviously they (Webb City) are a fantastic program with good football players. We’ve had some good luck against them and some not so good. We’ll be ready to play and they will too so it should be a great football game.”