Camdenton beat Hillcrest on Friday night in Springfield, but this one was special. The Lakers were not celebrating just any victory but the 500th victory in program history. The program that was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame's Class of 2016 now has another feat to add to its extensive resume.
When the clock hit zero on Friday evening in Springfield, in the midst of what is now the 62nd season of Camdenton Laker football, it became official.
Camdenton beat Hillcrest 38-14 in its annual Ozark Conference matchup with the Hornets to improve to 3-3 on the season, but this one was special. The Lakers were not celebrating just any victory but the 500th victory in program history.
Going back to the first season in 1959, the program has enjoyed 58 winning seasons averaging over eight wins per year. And along the way plenty of memories were created whether it was winning 28 district championships, including one last season, or five state titles. The program that was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2016 now has another feat to add to its extensive resume.
“The first thing, I just think it is a great program accomplishment. I don’t think there is any real individual accolades to be had,” Camdenton coach Jeff Shore said of the milestone win. “That is the great thing about it, it is more of an accomplishment from everyone in 1959 at the inception to now that has had a part of it. It is a pretty impressive record and it is not anything to take lightly. To average more than eight wins a year, that is hard to do.
“I’m just proud of everyone who has been a part of it and that is why it is so neat because it involves so many different people.”
So many different people, but so much consistency.
“It must be in the lake water or something,” Shore joked with a smile.
Truthfully, one of the things that turned the program into a consistent winner was confidence and that idea really took off when a man named Bob Shore took the head coaching job in 1975.
Bob Shore, who was named the Coach of the Century by the News-Leader in 2000 and was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2004, led the Lakers to 328 of those 500 victories during his 36 seasons as head coach, averaging nine wins per season. He was 328-75-2 at Camdenton and finished his coaching career 368-98-7 overall.
Before his arrival, the Lakers saw success but had never been to the playoffs since it was introduced to Missouri high school football in 1968. In his third season in charge, Bob led an undefeated team to the state finals in 1977 that lost to Columbia Rock Bridge 7-6 in the Class 3 championship game.
“That made the corner turn and 11 straight years we went to the playoffs,” Bob recalled, also noting how much the community embraced the team. “It perpetuated and fed itself and players saw what it took. I give credit to the Class of ’77 because they were the underdog and they showed we could do it and compete at that level. Our kids were willing to spend the time over the years and it is hard to convince kids if you don’t see the success.”
And from that point on, every player that came through the program did not want to see anything less or let the program take a downturn, so they were willing to make the investment. There was just a different kind of mentality the Lakers took to the gridiron each Friday night.
“We were not going to play down and have a down week. Beat the people you should and you cannot lose games you ought to win,” Bob noted. “Every game every Friday was the most important and that is the way we played each week. Learn from what we did, correct mistakes and move on. I had good players and athletes and you don’t win without them, but what our fans like is that our kids play hard and have a tradition of not giving up. What people like to see is the fact that we are not going to get down on ourselves and quit.”
It certainly made an impression on the Lakers who would suit up in the future and one of those players was Bob’s son, Jeff, the current coach who quarterbacked Camdenton to a pair of state championships in 1986 and 1987. Watching his father’s teams as he grew up, Jeff said his inspiration started with a concept called “End Zone Football.”
“It starts with those kids playing in the end zone and looking at the varsity guys. I know when I was a kid, my favorite times were playing ‘end zone football’ and looking up to guys like Chuck Blair, Manning Williams, Rodney Noel and Ty Dinsdale,” the coach said of some of the quarterbacks that led Camdenton before him in the late 70s and early 80s. “Then, in turn, when I got there I’m sure other guys looked up to the guys who were playing during my time so it is kind of that progression. I’ve always said our kids here in the community would much rather get an autograph from one of our varsity football players- a Murphy Ward or Chase Nugent- than any professional player during that time when they are looking up to those guys. That is a huge part of it I think is that tradition of looking up to the other guys and wanting to do that on Friday nights.”
Jeff also pointed out that through all of the success, only a handful have gone on to play Division I football and just one player, Jason Whittle, has reached the NFL. And during his time as head coach, one thing Bob said he appreciated was that players never seemed to be worried about a teammate outshining them. Rather, there was simply support and encouragement.
“You figure in that many years winning that many games, you would have some guys who were division one players. It is even more impressive if you think about that,” Jeff said. “It is just a bunch of guys getting together, working hard and playing hard for each other and the community.”
And it it is that concept of family that has played another major factor in the program reaching 500 wins, whether it is the players looking out for each other or a coaching staff that has stayed together. A Shore has led Laker football for the past 45 years, but both Bob and Jeff will quickly point to their coaching staffs as key contributors to the success. Mike Silverwood and Jim Pirch stuck with Bob as assistants for more than 30 years and Jeff’s current staff includes many former players.
Shawn Maschino, a former player and current assistant with the program who was part of those state championship teams in 1986 and 1987 as well, understands that concept of family quite well.
“It was just the whole family atmosphere that kept it together and I think that is what you can attribute these 500 wins to. The family culture, constant coaching staff that stayed together for so many years and being a coach and player, it gives you a great sense of satisfaction to get the milestone,” he said.
Camdenton senior Tyler Peery also gets that sense of family as a current player. Growing up as a proud member of “Pappy’s Hogs”, a Laker football tradition that was started by Pirch as a source of pride for Camdenton’s linemen, he has enjoyed coming up through the program.
“All throughout my whole high school career it has been a blast. We’ve played as a family and became more than just friends and brothers,” the senior stated. “We are all together and 500 wins just brought us closer.”
It was certainly a goal this current batch of Lakers had circled and Jeff was glad to see this group seize the opportunity.
“They were really excited about it. To be a part of that is a neat deal and I can remember being part of my dad’s 100th victory on a personal level,” said the current coach who is 76-35 in his 10th season in charge with four district championships. “To get to be part of the 500th victory as a program is something that is a feather in the cap and they were certainly happy to do it.”
Jeff also noted that the Lakers may be one of the fastest programs to reach the milestone. The Lake Sun reached out to the Missouri State High School Activities Association to see if this could be confirmed and the organization stated there was not anything in the archives regarding total program victories that could certify it. However, the fact that members of the the first football team in 1959 were present at the program’s induction into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2016 certainly lends credence to this notion.
Whatever the case may be, Camdenton will be in pursuit of its 501st win and beyond when Lebanon comes to town Friday night.
“Proud to be part of it as a player, proud to be part of it as a coach and happy for your community,” said Cole Walker, a current assistant who played on the 2005 state championship team. “I’d like to get another 500.”