Lamar beats Liberty to advance to state semifinals

By Amanda Perkins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)

Since 2010, the MVBT-Liberty Eagles and Lamar Tigers have met up six times in the Class 2 state quarterfinal round, and the Tigers have won each game.

Their seventh match-up was no different; Lamar traveled to Mountain View Saturday and returned home with a 32-8 victory.

“We grew a lot this year,” said Liberty head coach Brock Kenaga, who completes his first season at the helm after assisting for 25 years. “We won our first game and then lost our next two. Everyone was just kind of wondering if we were going to be able to maintain what we have had here in the past.”

One of Liberty’s early losses was to Fair Grove, a team they later topped to advance to the quarterfinal round.

Saturday’s game opened with Lamar scoring on their first possession, a nine-minute drive featuring scrambling sophomore quarterback Joel Beshore. After marching the ball steadily down the field with the aid of sophomore running back Logan Crockett, Beshore punched in the touchdown and senior Case Tucker added the two-point conversion, 8-0.

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS OF THE GAME

Lamar muffed two punts and Liberty recovered both, but penalties, turnovers, and incomplete passes plagued the Eagles in the first half. Just before halftime, Eagles junior quarterback Tyler Watts connected with junior wide receiver Jentry Acklin on a 22-yard pass, then to junior wide receiver Noah Jester from 29 yards, but Liberty ran out of time in their drive as the quarter ended.

Lamar added to their total twice in the third; sophomore running back Austin Wilkerson drove in each touchdown while Trace Willhite and Case Tucker each added two-point conversions to go up 24-0.

A pass on third and long burned the Eagles as Lamar intercepted.

Each team added eight points in the final frame. Case Tucker scored for Lamar, then lineman Tucker Torbeck added the two-point conversion off a ball deflection. Junior quarterback Tyler Watts put the Eagles on the board late in the fourth, and Jentry Acklin added a two-point conversion.

“Our young kids have really bought in and have done a great job of believing in each other and believing in the coaching staff and systems,” said Kenaga. “They’ve really given us something to build on for next year. This isn’t how we want to finish the season, but there are very few teams throughout the season who don’t feel this. We’re hoping one of these days we don’t have to feel this.”

Jared Beshore is a first-year head coach at Lamar as well as an alumnus and four-time all-state selection who faced Liberty in quarterfinal rounds as a player.

“This matchup has a lot of history and everyone knows that,” said Beshore. “We’ve been down here seven times in the past ten years. It’s an incredible atmosphere. I love playing against Mountain View – Liberty because they always give us everything they’ve got, the stadium is always packed and the fans are loud. It’s just a great quarterfinal matchup.”

The Eagles end their season 11-3. Lamar will face Jefferson (Festus) in semifinal play.