An Ozark Conference crown and the program's 28th district championship are great checkmarks in the pursuit of a sixth state championship. Now, the Lakers have another checkmark to cross off the list Friday night when Camdenton faces a Webb City team that has knocked the Lakers out of the playoffs the past two seasons.
Camdenton has much to be proud of in the midst of an undefeated season.
An Ozark Conference crown and the program’s 28th district championship are great checkmarks in the pursuit of a sixth state championship. Now, the Lakers have another checkmark to cross off the list Friday night when Camdenton faces a Webb City team that has knocked the Lakers out of the playoffs the past two seasons.
It is probably not too surprising that these two titans of southwest Missouri should meet again- considering that the 11-1 Cardinals have won 14 state championships and the 12-0 Lakers have claimed five of their own. Another fun battle should be in store when these two Hall of Fame programs meet to determine who will go on to the state semifinals with the aspirations of adding another trophy to the case.
“Obviously they are a fantastic program with good football players,” Camdenton coach Jeff Shore said of a program that has lost just seven games since the start of the decade. “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.”
Unfortunately, the bad luck may come to memory more recently than the good.
The Lakers put together a game-tying drive in the waining seconds of the state quarterfinals a season ago, only to come up short on a missed extra point that resulted in a season-ending 28-27 loss at Webb City. In 2017, Camdenton fell to an unbeaten Cardinal team 40-14 in the district semifinals that went on to win a state championship.
But there are some good memories in the mix as well. Before the 2017 season, Camdenton last met Webb City in 2005 and knocked off the Cardinals 21-14 on the way to a state title.
Overall, Webb City leads the series 7-5, but the Cardinals will have to come to Bob Shore Stadium for this round where the Lakers have won 19 in a row and will be playing a sixth straight game on home turf.
“Our kids earned it in the regular season with their play... and it is a home field advantage,” Shore said of playing at home. “Any time you get to play at Bob Shore Stadium, aka the ‘J.O.D.,’ (Jaws of Death) it is a good day. Our kids will be ready to play, lay it on the line and we’ll see what happens.”
If Friday night’s 35-7 district championship win over Lebanon is any indication, the Lakers seem to be in pretty good shape.
After giving up a touchdown on the opening drive of the game, Camdenton shut down the 9-3 Yellowjackets the rest of the way. A Lebanon team that loves to run the football was held to just 186 yards overall, finishing with 194 total yards on the night.
That seemingly bodes well for the Lakers who will be facing another run-heavy team in Webb City. However, Camdenton will have to remain sharp and disciplined against a team averaging 42.6 points per contest.
The Cardinals have rushed for 3,510 yards on the season and are averaging 292.5 yards per contest. Devrin Weathers leads the charge with 1,151 yards and 16 touchdowns on the season while Terrell Kabala (749 yards, 16 touchdowns), Kade Hicks (579 yard, eight touchdowns) and Dillon Harlen (528 yards, five touchdowns) are more than capable of inflicting damage as well.
Meanwhile, the Cardinal passing game has produced 1,167 yards in 2019 with Eli Goddard throwing 658 of them and 11 touchdowns. Hicks has totaled 519 with seven touchdowns and three interceptions of his own. The two biggest receiving threats from the Cardinals are Mekhi Garrard (15 receptions for 347 yards and four touchdowns) and Cale Mccallister (24 receptions for 343 yards and five touchdowns.)
The Camdenton defense knows it will have to shut down the run for a third straight week as Washington also leaned towards this strategy in the district semifinals and the Lakers have shown they have the personnel to stop it.
Returning senior All-State linebacker Ryan Maasen leads the “Purple Haze” defense with 165 tackles in 2019 which include 11 1/2 tackles for a loss, six forced fumbles, four sacks and a fumble recovery and interception. There are a couple of other enforcers up front as well in senior defensive lineman Mason Kinney (46 tackles, 18.5 tackles for a loss and six sacks) and fellow senior defensive lineman Cort Petty (35 tackles, 15 1/2 tackles for a loss and 13 sacks). The secondary has been led by senior defensive back Jase Nicklas who has 49 tackles on the season and six interceptions. Overall, the defense has forced 7.8 tackles for a loss per game and a total of 41 turnovers.
Like any team that heavily leans on the run, forcing Webb City to go away from its strength and start passing the ball should favor a Laker team giving up just 211.6 yards and 13.1 points per game.
Camdenton can help make that happen by jumping out to a nice lead and Shore’s pass-heavy “Purple Tide” offense is designed to do just that.
Returning senior All-State quarterback Paxton DeLaurent is now at 3,598 passing yards on the season to go with 50 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. The quarterback has also rushed for 304 more yards and another six touchdowns on the ground. Protecting DeLaurent will be key, though, as Webb City employs three rushers who have four or more sacks on the season and another with 3 1/2.
Junior running back Jadin Faulconer, who proved that the Lakers are more than capable of running the football as well in last week’s win over Lebanon, is up to 396 yards and nine touchdowns in 2019 on just 52 carries. Junior running back Eli Griffin, who saw the field for the first time last week since his week four injury, provides a reliable ground game as well with 93 yards and a pair of scores on just 23 carries. Both running backs are dangerous in the air as well. Faulconer has 25 receptions for 335 yards and seven touchdowns and Griffin is at 18 receptions for 156 yards and a score.
DeLaurent has plenty more options in the air, too.
Junior receiver Cooper Ezard has 66 receptions for 823 yards and 14 touchdowns, Nicklas has 57 receptions for 853 yards and eight touchdowns, senior Talon Randazzo has 38 receptions for 436 yards and eight scores and senior Collin Thomas has caught 30 passes for 403 yards and six touchdowns of his own.
The Lakers are currently averaging 399.7 yards and 49 points per outing and are up against a Webb City defense giving up 10.08 points per contest.
Camdenton has not lost since last season’s tough loss to the Cardinals a season ago and Webb City’s only loss this season came against a Class 6 Joplin team that remains undefeated on the season. Even that game was decided by a single touchdown.
For one Laker, though, all that matters is the opportunity ahead on Friday night. Throw out what has already been accomplished this season and any other remnant of the past.
“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,” Nicklas said. “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.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.