By Amanda Perkins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
It was a rainy overtime thriller at Faurot Field Saturday as the Lamar Tigers took down the Valle Catholic Warriors 35-28 in the Class 2 state championship game.
“It’s tough to put into words right now,” said Lamar head coach Jared Beshore. “They jumped right on top of us, that’s a great football program. They’ve been doing it for a long time. I’m just so proud of our kids for fighting back, and they never gave up. That is a poetic justice ending. It couldn’t encompass our season and our team and these seniors better than being down 21-0 and having to fight back and claw their way back and ending up with a W. That’s what these guys have been through all season. We’ve fought adversity after adversity and overcame and still found a way, and today that’s exactly what we did.”
Valle started out hot and put up 21 points on big plays before Lamar scored, but the Tiger defense held the Warriors to just one touchdown after the first quarter.
“We made some adjustments…our guys ended up just winning the one-on-one battles there at the end,” said Beshore. “The defensive line played extremely well, getting pressure on the QB, and we were able to sew up some coverage on the back end that we botched in the first half. Great job to Coach Wilkerson, our defensive coordinator, making some adjustments, and Coach Bailey up front.”
The Tigers put together a drive to score midway through the second quarter, capped off by a 69-yard pass from quarterback Alex Wilkerson to Chase Querry for a touchdown. Jose Juarez added the extra point.
Lamar shut down Valle’s next possession then scored again, with Wilkerson rushing for 21 yards and Logan Kish for 72 yards and a touchdown. Juarez’s kick was good, and the Tigers were back in the game, trailing 21-14 as they entered the half.
Valle Catholic added a touchdown early in the third, which would prove to be its last of the game.
Early in the fourth, the Warriors entered the end zone, but an illegal formation call negated the touchdown, and they couldn’t punch it in again. Lamar capitalized and Alex Wilkerson rushed for another touchdown. The Tigers trailed 28-21 with 10 minutes to play.
Penalties shut down Valle’s next drive before a Wilkerson pass to Chase Querry for 91 yards and a touchdown put Lamar on the board again, and Juarez’s PAT tied the game, 28-28.
With just over a minute left, Wilkerson’s interception and 9-yard return looked like it could lead to a win, but the clock expired before Lamar could score.
Wilkerson’s first touch in overtime resulted in a 25-yard rushing touchdown, and Juarez’s kick was good. Riddick Gordon forced a fumble on Valle’s possession for third and two; Valle recovered, but their final pass fell incomplete for a Tiger win.
This was Lamar’s fourth straight appearance in the title game, and they last took home the trophy in 2020.
“Experience can either be a positive or a negative,” said Coach Beshore. “For a negative, you think you’ve been here before, so you get complacent…you don’t have a sense of urgency, and then it becomes a negative, and then you come out flat. It can also be a positive. When we walk through what the procedure is today, then it is a positive, because you understand what the procedure is and now, we can just focus on going and playing football. So, I thought we did a great job of that this week. I don’t think this is the reason we came out flat, I think it was just because we were playing a heck of a football team that made some great plays and put us in some tough spots. That was a great football game.”
Defensive tackle Rourke Dillon credited his team’s camaraderie. “We were there for each other the entire game,” he said. “It meant a lot to go out there and stop their offensive line. Their o-line is a great o-line. Us having each other’s backs and stopping them means a lot.”
Coach Beshore led the current seniors to a state title in their freshman season, and now another to end their high school careers. “Each senior class, there’s something special about them,” said Beshore. “I got to coach my younger brother. This group right here…their start was my start. And so to see the growth from then until now is incredible. These guys are not only great football players but also great young men.”
Beshore said the success and hard work began before he was even a Lamar player upon the arrival of Coach Scott Bailey, who led the Tigers to seven consecutive state championships. “A lot of the guys on the sidelines for us were there when it happened,” he said.
Beshore earned his first state ring as a sophomore playing for Bailey. “Then it was a snowball, and every time we’ve been there, we won it….then we didn’t accomplish those goals for a couple of years,” he said.
“The overcoming of adversity this program has faced the past four to five years is incredible. Obviously, we’ve maintained a high level of success, but you don’t see programs go to a state title four times in a row and overcome the way we did in this game. It could have been real easy for our kids losing the last two state title games and being down 21-0 and saying, ‘Here we go again.’ And instead of saying, ‘Here we go again,’ we said, ‘Here we go,’ and we just went. It sums up our entire team and our entire season and there is not a more perfect ending to our season than this game right here.”
“We’ve had unfinished business, so today we finished the job, which is incredibly satisfying,” he added. “And for these seniors to go out with a W, it’s special. There’s no better feeling.”