By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Clinging to a seven-point lead with less than two minutes to play, a defensive stop against Lincoln was all Lockwood needed to extend its season.
The Cardinals entered the game 11-0 with six 40-point games. But, on a drive set up by a late fumble, Lockwood’s defense came up with a season-preserving stand to keep Lincoln out of the end zone and complete a 40-33 Class 1 Quarterfinal win Saturday at home.
“I’ve been proud of our kids all season because of how they’ve faced adversity whether it be on the field or off the field,” said Lockwood head coach Luke Rader. “When it seems like we’re backed into a corner our kids just keep fighting and I can’t say enough about that quality they have. Hopefully it helps them in life as much as it has in football.
“Last week at Adrian they had first and goal at the seven and we made a stand. Obviously, you don’t want to put yourself in those situations but I’m happy with how we responded.”
In what was a wild back and forth Elite Eight game, Lockwood’s defense was the hero on a day that was all about the offense.
Both defenses allowed a season-high in points.
Lockwood was able to take a 7-0 lead on its first drive of the game, capped by a 25-yard Justin Nentrup touchdown run, but short fields – one from a great kickoff return and the other off a fumble – allowed Lincoln to take a 15-7 lead.
“We told our kids all week that Lincoln is a good football team and if you give them anything they’re going to capitalize on it,” said Rader. “That’s exactly what they did in the first half.”
The Tigers deficit swelled to 12, 25-13, before Lockwood found consistent offense through surprising means.
The passing game…
Typically known for running the split back veer, Rader unleashed junior quarterback Paxton Masterson and senior receivers Logan Sparkman and Jack Purinton, which changed the complexion of Saturday’s game.
The first strike came late in the first half when Masterson found Purinton on a corner route for a 46-yard touchdown.
That trimmed Lincoln’s lead to just one possession to start the second half. From there it was all about Sparkman.
He returned the opening kickoff of the second half 76 yards for a score to give Lockwood its first lead since the game’s opening drive. Less than four minutes later, following a Derek Stephens touchdown run which reestablished the Cardinals lead, Sparkman took a quick slant 52 yards for a score to tie the game again at 33.
Sparkman then ended Saturday’s offense with a play only few could make to start the fourth quarter, running a vertical route, creating separation and out running Lincoln’s defense 64 yards for his third and final score of the game.
“Logan is a great athlete and we felt like we had a chance to get a deep ball to him,” said Rader. “We’ve worked on it in practice and told Paxton to put it out in front of him where only he can go get it. It was a great app by Paxton and a great route by Logan.”
Neither defense would allow another point over the game’s final 11 minutes.
Masterson completed six of eight attempts for 200 yards and a career-high four touchdowns. Sparkman caught three passes for 122 yards and a pair of scores. Purinton had two receptions for 70 yards and a score.
Nentrup rushed for 97 yards on just nine carries. Senior Josh Osterdyk caught Masterson’s other touchdown pass.
Lockwood outgained Lincoln 375-269.
Senior Derek Stephens finished with 84 yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries. Classmate Dominic Simmons racked up 105 yards from scrimmage on 17 touches. Sophomore quarterback Jackson Beaman completed 13 of 20 attempts for 111 yards.
The win puts Lockwood in the Final Four for the first time since the Tigers were state runner-up back in 2001.
Rader was a junior on that team and his father, Mike Rader, was an assistant coach.
As a third generation Lockwood Tiger, Rader is about as entrenched in the success of his program and community as any coach you’ll find in the Ozarks. With his team entering territory unseen since his playing days, he’s excited for his kids to have the opportunity to create their own legacy.
“We’ve got eight got eight seniors that get to experience this and I’m excited for them,” said Rader. “It’s one of those things you can’t explain unless you’ve been through it. Lockwood is a special place and it’s been great showing our kids what it means to wear that LT.
“This is a great group of kids. They’re hard workers, they’re fun and they love each other. It’s exciting to get to the Final Four and have another week with them.”
Lockwood will visit Missouri Class 1 power Valle Catholic on Saturday. The Warriors have won 14 state championships in program history and have played for seven of the last eight Class 1 state titles.
Lockwood 40, Lincoln 33
Lincoln 15-10-8-0 – 33
Lockwood 13-7-13-7 – 40
Lockwood – Justin Nentrup 25 run
Lincoln – Derek Stephens 2 run
Lincoln – Stephens 1 run
Lockwood – Josh Osterdyk 8 pass from Paxton Masterson
Lincoln – Stephens 3 run
Lincoln – Devon Parrott 31 field goal
Lockwood – Jack Purinton 46 pass from Masterson
Lockwood – Logan Sparkman 75 kickoff return
Lincoln – Stephens 12 run
Lockwood – Sparkman 52 pass from Masterson
Lockwood – Sparkman 64 pass from Masterson