Lakers conclude the season at 12-1
Turnovers can loom large in a football game.
When they happen in the state playoffs, they can loom even larger with the season on the line. Webb City was able to take advantage of Camdenton’s miscues, the Lakers were unable to return the favor and a big second half allowed the Cardinals to pull away for a 62-34 win on a wet and cold night in the Class 4 state quarterfinals to move on to the semifinals next week. Webb City has been a proverbial thorn for Camdenton since the Lakers moved back down to Class 4, ending the team’s season the past three years.
“They were really good, I’ll tip my cap to them,” Shore said of the 14-time state champions who won their last state title during an undefeated campaign in 2017. “We needed a couple things to go our way and played really good the first half. We did not catch the breaks we needed to in the second.
“I’m proud of my guys. We shot every paintball we had in the gun and just came up short, that’s all.”
The Lakers, who have five state titles of their own, came out ready for the prizefight between two Hall of Fame programs, initially trading every blow the Cardinals sent their way.
Webb City landed the first shot on the opening possession of the night as Terrell Kabala ran in a 39-yard score on the third play from scrimmage to open up a 7-0 lead in a game the Cardinals never trailed in. The Lakers went three-and-out on their first offensive possession, but the defense responded the second time out and forced a punt that set up senior quarterback Paxton DeLaurent’s 56-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Cooper Ezard on the first play of the series to tie it up.
Webb City’s next offensive play resulted in a fumble that was scooped up by junior defensive lineman Mason Draper to set the Lakers up at the Cardinal 20-yard line. However, Webb City’s Cale McCallister picked off a DeLaurent pass at the goal line to prevent Camdenton from taking the lead and the offense repaid him with a 54-yard drive that ended on a 1-yard quarterback sneak from Kade Hicks.
The haymakers from both sides continued.
Trailing 14-7 early in the second quarter, Camdenton quickly struck back just over a minute later as DeLaurent churned his feet and put the pigskin across the goal line for a 1-yard quarterback sneak of his own. Unfortunately for the Lakers, the Cardinals found their groove and capped an 80-yard drive on the ensuing series as Hicks found Dillon Harlen for a 4-yard option pitch to regain the advantage.
Camdenton’s final drive of the first half seemingly took everything the Lakers could muster to find a way to get the ball in the end zone and tie the game back up.
After driving 77 yards- which included a 4th-and-4 conversion on a 15-yard DeLaurent pass to senior receiver Antione Lockhart- senior kicker Luke Galbreath nailed a field goal to make it 21-17. However, the Cardinals were flagged for running into the kicker and Camdenton decided to be aggressive and go for the game-tying touchdown. DeLaurent converted yet another fourth down play as Ezard hauled in a diving catch on 4th-and-5 and the two hooked up yet again on 4th-and-goal from the 7 for the junior’s second touchdown catch of the night.
The second half was a different story and the ending is not one the undefeated Lakers envisioned. Whatever momentum Camdenton had left heading into the locker room quickly shifted back to the opposite sideline as Webb City scored 21 unanswered points in the third frame.
It began with another Webb City touchdown on the opening possession. Like a machine, the Cardinals marched 57 yards down the field and Kabala was soon back in the end zone on a 24-yard dash to the house. Kabala finished with a team-leading 196 rushing yards on 15 carries and was a key reason why the Cardinals were not so easy to stop.
The Lakers went three-and-out on their first drive, but another Webb City fumble on a misplayed snap on 4th-and-1 at the Cardinal 38 gave the home side a window to respond. It seemed DeLaurent had the answer as he found senior receiver Collin Thomas streaking across the end zone for what would have been a game-tying touchdown. The play was called back, though, as the quarterback was flagged for being across the line of scrimmage on the throw. Facing a 3rd-and-15, DeLaurent’s next pass was intercepted by Treghan Parker and this time, it would be returned for a 100-yard touchdown.
Things did not get much better as Hicks found receiver Devrin Weathers for a 22-yard touchdown pass to close out the third quarter with a 42-21 lead. Webb City did not stop there as Hicks ran in a 23-yard score, Kabala scored on a 15-yard run and Harlen added another touchdown before the night was through. The Cardinals finished with 493 rushing yards and added another 64 passing yards on a night where the team only had to punt twice.
“They are hard to beat,” Shore said of Webb City. The Cardinals and Lakers spent most of the season ranked as the top two Class 4 teams in the state.
“I think this was the championship game. I think they’ll go on and win it so we just did not quite have enough in the tank.”
Camdenton added two more scores as Ezard added his third touchdown of the night on a 36-yard pass from DeLaurent and the quarterback also found senior receiver Talon Randazzo from 30 yards out. Ezard led all receivers with 14 receptions for 208 yards, senior receiver Jase Nicklas had eight catches for 90 yards and Randazzo finished with five catches for 65 yards, respectively.
“I’m so proud of my guys. They never ever quit the whole season long,” Shore stated. “You saw games we came back from and they did not quit tonight. We just got beat.”
It was an uncharacteristic night for DeLaurent who tossed four interceptions while going 33-61 for 418 yards and four scores. He also had all of the team’s rushing yards with 90 to his credit. Playing in 31 career games and spending just two years as the starter, the senior will leave Camdenton with multiple school records after leading one of the best offenses in the state.
“Unbelievable,” Shore said of his time with DeLaurent, calling upon the quarterback to lead his new pass-heavy “Purple Tide” offense. “He and I kind of bounced things off each other and kind of invented or progressed it as it went.
“Paxton- what do you say? He is the best quarterback I’ve ever seen and that sums it up for me. He did an unbelievable job and just had a great career.”
Despite the conclusion, DeLaurent said it was an “amazing" journey.
“I love every one of the guys. It is a brotherhood, it really is,” the quarterback said after underclassmen lined up and thanked the seniors on the goal line. “Coach Shore going through and telling me he found a love of football again with this and I know the community really enjoyed it. It is something you’ll never lose, but it has been awesome.”
Since their sophomore season, DeLaurent and his fellow seniors have been part of 31 wins and 2019 was quite a journey as well with the Lakers entering Friday night’s contest unbeaten at 12-0, fresh off the program’s 28th district championship in school history. The journey has disappointingly concluded as there can be only one team left standing at the end of the year.
“It is always going to end that way unless you win it all, but it does not take away from the fantastic year we had,” Shore noted. “I think they played super hard for their community, school and for each other. That is all you can ask for as a coach and I would not trade sidelines with anybody. Everyone that was here won together, lost together and unfortunately, there was only one time this year we lost together. It was a great season.”
As another chapter of Laker football comes to an end, the program is hoping more exciting ones are in store.
“These guys have continued to establish our tradition. We’ll do our best to just keep on plugging and try to get back here again,” Shore said.