By Kary Booher (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
LEBANON – Outside of the Camdenton Lakers’ locker room stood senior linebacker Ryan Maasen, his face a bit red and hair still sweaty. Nearby was defensive lineman Tyler Peery, his undershirt soaked in sweat and his and athletic tape still on his hands.
If you didn’t know better, one might assume they had just punched the time clock from a day on a construction crew. Only, their night was the gridiron.
“We straight up manned up,” Maasen said after Camdenton beat the rival Lebanon Yellowjackets 28-0 in a pivotal Ozark Conference showdown Friday night at Jacket Stadium.
Lebanon entered seeking a three-way tie atop the Ozark Conference, but instead was dealt its first shutout since Nov. 8, 2010 in a playoff loss at Lee’s Summit West.
While Lebanon got flagged for 125 yards in penalties, Camdenton’s night featured this: A goal-line stand in the first quarter – it ended the Jackets’ 17-play drive that ate up the game’s first 8 ½ minutes – as well as coming up with three second-half turnovers (two leading directly to 15 points).
Which was saying something, given all eyes have been on Camdenton quarterback Paxton DeLaurent and the Lakers’ five-receiver set this year.
Yes, the Lakers’ offense did do enough — receiver Cooper Ezard scored two touchdowns, one on DeLaurent’s 3-yard pass with 6:21 left before halftime and the other when he recovered another receiver’s fumble that bounced into the end zone on a second-and-12 from the 15. It pushed the advantage to 13-0 late in the third quarter.
Jadin Faulconer (5) and Maasen (4) added fourth-quarter TD runs for Camdenton.
“Since the end of last year, our defense has played really well and now it’s come on really well,” Camdenton coach Jeff Shore said. “We played some great defensive football.”
With DeLaurent getting the headlines and the ink most of the year, the defense stepped into the spotlight Friday by stuffing Lebanon rusher Quameire Wright up the middle and mostly holding the Jackets’ edge rushes in check.
Up front, there was pressure from linemen Peery, Mason Kinney, Marcus Stephens and sub Kaiden Davis. Maasen, Faulconer, Mason Draper and Ezard closed in and corralled from linebacker spots, with a secondary of Jase Nicklas, Collin Thomas, Talon Randazzo and Ethan Harris.
Said Lebanon coach Will Christian, “I thought Camdenton was very fast and physical defensively and really did a great job. They made things very difficult on us the entire night, so they are the first ones that need credit.”
Not that the game’s opening drive suggested it would be Camdenton’s defense hogging the spotlight. Lebanon marched from its 20 to the Lakers 2-yard line with a strong ground attack. But Harris got a quarterback sack on fourth-and-goal at the 2.
“Our first possession was outstanding,” Lebanon coach Will Christian said. “But in a lot of ways, we had mojo and confidence go out a little bit when we couldn’t punch it in.”
Camdenton finally broke the scoreless tie with a 15-play, 81-yard drive. It ended in a fourth-and-goal, three-yard pass to Ezard and was the second fourth-and-short conversion in the series.
The Lakers’ next score came with 32 seconds left in the third quarter on Ezard’s fumble recovery. That drive featured his 18-yard catch on a slant route on third-and-10, taking the Lakers to the 15.
“On that fumble recovery, it was actually a play I messed up on,” said Ezard, who was cutting across the goal line as the ball tumbled out of a receiver’s arms and bounced forward. “It wouldn’t have happened if I had run the play right.”
Lebanon, which suffered a 36-35 loss last week here to West Plains in a Class 4 state-ranked showdown, was again left wondering what might have been.
The missed opportunity at the goal line was one thing. Their penalties were a completely different animal.
A 52-yard run by Kale Keagy just before halftime had Lebanon at the Camdenton 29 in the final minute before halftime, but a holding penalty all but wiped out the scoring chance.
Yet that wasn’t the most aggravating for Lebanon, which got hit with 30 yards in penalties – a hit to the helmet, then an unsportsman-like conduct – with about 8 ½ minutes left and trailing only 7-0 in the fourth.
That allowed Camdenton to move from roughly its own 30 to the Lebanon 38 without having to run a play. The unsportsman-like penalty came after the punt, in which a Lebanon player appeared to be blocked in the back in front of the return man. The flag, one of 12 on the night, was thrown as Christian stood near an official.
Camdenton didn’t score on the series. But field position became an issue, and Lebanon’s second-half soon came apart with two fumbles lost and an interception.
“We didn’t play as disciplined tonight,” Christian said. “Some of them are hustle fouls. A few of them were undisciplined stuff. I know I had one. It’s one of those things that in a close game will get you beat.”
DeLaurent finished 20 of 35 passing for 149 yards, including 101 yards in the second half. Lebanon’s Wright had 66 yards rushing on 16 carries.