2020 Fall Preview: Lamar Football

By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)

Lamar Football will be starting a new era this fall with Jared Beshore taking over the program.

Beshore, who was a player on Lamar’s first state championship team, followed that up with a successful playing career at Missouri State. He inherits a team that returns 13 full and part-time starters from last year’s 10-3 edition.

But, even though there’s a new coach in charge, many of the same pillars of what has led to Lamar’s remarkable turnaround over the last two decades are still in place.

“The first requirement for us to be successful is work,” said Beshore. “We have to out-work our opponents in the classroom, weight room, practice field, film room, and in the community. And the second is belief. Our players must believe they are champions every day. This also comes easy once you’ve completed the first requirement.”

Lamar has mastered the art of the reload rather than the rebuild and that will again have to be the case with so many new faces stepping into starting roles. But, there is plenty of returning talent, led by all-state senior athlete Case Tucker.

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The younger brother of former Lamar standouts, Tucker rushed for 1,153 yards and 18 touchdowns on just 151 carries. He also added 65 tackles and five PBUs defensively. He’s arguably the top returning two-way player in the Big 8.

“I played with both of Case’s older brothers (they were both All-State players in the program) and I’ve known Case since he was a toddler,” said Beshore. “He was always a very driven and focused student-athlete. Case had a very successful junior season, so I obviously expect him to perform on the field. But the biggest expectation I have for Case is to be one of our vocal and example leaders this upcoming season.”

Joining Tucker as a backfield returner is classmate Cade Griffith. The 5-foot-10, 160-pound back rushed for 590 yards and five touchdowns as a junior.

Senior Cody O’Sullivan and sophomore Austin Wilkerson will also be looking at roles offensively after seeing reps last fall.

All-Big 8 senior Ben Wilhelm will anchor an offensive line that won’t have much experience. Cadence Zupan, Baylee Wright and Mason Bartholomew are among the newcomers competing for starting spots on the offensive line.

All-Area lineman Rylan Wooldridge tallied 69 tackles as a junior and will help lead a unit that returns several key pieces from last season.

Junior linebacker Robert Lawrence was an All-Area pick after leading Lamar in tackles (111) and tackles for loss (9). Classmate Trace Willhite, another All-Area selection, finished second in tackles with 106.

Wilkerson was one of the area’s top ball hawks as a freshman, finishing the season with six interceptions. He also added 94 tackles, six TFL and six PBUs. Classmate Logan Crockett added 67 tackles and four PBUs.

Senior Blaine Shaw will also add starting experience in the trenches, with the ability to play an interior or exterior line spot.

Seniors Ozzy Straw, Noah Osborne and Phoenix Pagacz are also expected to contribute on one or both sides of the ball.

As for schematics, Lamar fans can expect to see a typical Brotherhood team in terms of physicality and discipline on both sides of the ball.

“Offensively, we will have very similar philosophies to Lamar teams of the past,” said Beshore. “Run the football, control the clock, have calculated/opportunistic pass schemes. I came from this program, and have always believed you must run the ball to be a championship-level football team.

“We will focus on stopping the run, aligning properly to offenses, and putting players in position to make plays. Teams that win late in the year run the ball. So we must be able to take that aspect of the game away from our opponents.”

While some of the names have changed, the expectations at Lamar have not.

The Tigers still expect to compete at a high level every Friday night. That fits right the mold of Lamar’s highly competitive new head coach. The Tigers continue to push through an awkward offseason due to COVID-19, but Beshore is excited about what lies ahead of his team.

“We’ve been working since March, communicating workouts, talking schedule changes and much more,” said Beshore. “The kids understand the coaching transition, and have jumped on board with little hesitation (that’s just how Lamar kids are). For me, I think it’ll become more of a reality the closer we get. I’m just excited to get to work with these kids and push them to become better men/football players. That’s my daily focus right now.”

Lamar will open the 2020 season on Aug. 28 at Springfield Catholic. The Tigers will play their home opener the following week against Reeds Spring.

The fate of the Big 8 will be decided in late September when Lamar knocks out the toughest part of its schedule in a brutal four-week span; at Cassville, at Mount Vernon, home vs. Monett and at Seneca.

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