By Brock Sisney (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
LAMAR — Reeds Spring miscues in both halves proved costly for the visiting Wolves and beneficial for the Lamar Tigers in their 27-23 home-opening victory Friday night at Thomas O’Sullivan Stadium.
Late in the first half, Reeds Spring led 14-6 but the Wolves fumbled in their own territory and Lamar sophomore Logan Crockett recovered the pigskin at the enemy 26 just 46.2 seconds remaining before halftime. Reeds Spring could have ran out the clock and entered the locker room with an eight-point halftime lead. Lamar, though, gained another offensive possession, one with a short field, and the Tigers were to get the ball first second half.
On a third-and-10, Lamar senior quarterback Case Tucker threw one up for receiver Mason Gastel and the 6-foot-3 junior went up for and came down with the grab in the end zone exactly 19 seconds after the fumble recovery. Lamar failed on its two-point conversion attempt, but the Tigers went into half down only 14-12.
That drive to start the second half saw Lamar drive 70 yards in 11 plays and 4:35, capped off by a Tucker 2-yard TD run on fourth down. On a third point-after try, Anthony Wilkerson ran it in for two and a 20-14 Lamar lead.
Special teams factored into Reeds Spring taking a 23-20 lead entering the final quarter, but unfortunately for the Wolves a special teams mistake played into their defeat. With 9:03 remaining in regulation, Lamar traversed 17 yards in two plays and 15 seconds, with Tucker’s third TD run of the night giving Lamar the final lead change.
Reeds Spring drove into Lamar territory late, but the Wolves turned it over on downs after three straight incomplete passes and the Tigers ran off the final 145 seconds to improve to 2-0 on the ‘20 season.
“Our guys came out after halftime and we made some adjustments,” Lamar head coach Jared Beshore said. “We rolled right down the field and scored, and that kinda set the tone for the second half. It was an ugly game, even the second half was ugly, but going down there and punching it in gave our kids the confidence to finish that second half.
“We got a nice little turnover on their punt. We knew that we had to punch it in and we went to our go-to guys to get that thing punched in. We weren’t trying to play any games with ‘em, just go straight at ‘em, and it paid off there toward the end.”
Both teams scored most of their points Friday night by capitalizing on their opponent’s mistakes.
“It was a tough night tonight,” Reeds Spring head coach Andy McFarland said. “It was a hard-fought game and I was really proud of how my kids responded to adversity, but unfortunately we put ourselves into too many bad positions to win this game. We gave it away more than one time and silly mistakes got us beat. We played excellent on defense, our coaches did a good job, and our guys made a lot of plays, but offensively, we put ourselves into too many bad situations and Lamar capitalized. I’m proud of the way our kids played, but we’ve got a lot of improvement to do with those fine details.”
The teams exchanged punches right from the start.
Only 2:41 into the contest, Reeds Spring senior quarterback Matt Allison and sophomore tight end Caden Wiest connected on a 20-yard TD pass with division of labor split about evenly. Wiest caught the ball around the 10 and the 6-foot-4, 240-pound young man broke one tackle en route to pay dirt.
It did not take long — matter of fact, only 12 seconds — for Lamar to respond, as Tucker rushed for a 73-yard TD on the Tigers’ first play from scrimmage.
Both teams scuffled a little bit — long plays called back on penalties for both teams, including a 50-yard TD run by Reeds Spring’s Evan Gross negated by a holding penalty — the rest of the first and early into the second quarter until an outstanding special teams play shifted field position and momentum in favor of the visitors.
Reeds Spring senior Colton Cramblett’s 52-yard punt was downed at the Lamar 1. The Tigers managed to get away from the shadow of their end zone, but their possession ended on a fumble recovered by junior Jaden Herrman at the Lamar 30. Eight plays later, Reeds Spring took the biggest lead of the night — eight points — on a 1-yard Allison run with 3:04 remaining first half.
In the third quarter, Reeds Spring downed a second Cramblett punt — this one 62 yards — at the Lamar 1 and within a matter of a couple minutes of game time, actually 29 seconds, the scoreboard changed from Lamar 20-14 to Reeds Spring 23-20.
On Lamar’s first play after taking over at their own 1, a bad snap produced a safety. Cramblett broke a 45-yard TD run on the first play after the free kick.
Lamar will look to remain unbeaten when it travels to Anderson next week to play McDonald County. The Mustangs evened their record at 1-1 with a 35-19 victory Friday night over Springfield Catholic. Since 2012, Lamar and McDonald County have met eight times previously with Lamar winning all eight, including 49-28 last season.
“The crowd was huge,” Beshore said. “Home opener and we had a great crowd tonight. They came out, they were loud and proud, and we were just happy that we got to put on a show for the first game on the new turf.”
Reeds Spring (1-1), meanwhile, will face a stern challenge to avoid consecutive losses.
“We’re going to Mt. Vernon next week,” McFarland said. “Another tough opponent. We’ve got a lot of work to do this week.”
Mt. Vernon, 2-0 after a 49-28 victory Friday over East Newton, has won 16 straight regular season games. In fact, Mt. Vernon’s last regular season loss came against none other than Reeds Spring — 27-26 at Mountaineer Stadium on Sept. 14, 2018 — and the Mountaineers have mounted a 21-2 overall record since that loss.