By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
Never mind that the Lamar Tigers already beat Butler 63-12 this season. That isn’t going to change Lamar’s mindset as it enters a Class 2 District 4 championship game against the Bears at 7 tonight in Lamar.
“Our last two performances, I thought we’ve had really good focus,” Lamar coach Scott Bailey said. “We’re going in playing excellent football. Hopefully, we can do the same thing.”
Bailey said keeping that focus is crucial at this time of year. The Tigers are aware of the rewards that type of focus brings, winning the state championship last year.
“I think it’s unrealistic for a coach to expect that type of preparation starting in July and going through every week of the season,” Bailey said. “As an adult, I’m not capable of that. So I don’t expect a teenage kid to be able to do that. But at this point of the season, not only do I expect it but the kids expect it out of themselves and from each other.”
The mentality has been evident the past two games. Lamar cruised past Stockton 70-0 on Oct. 25 and beat Ash Grove 69-28 in a game the Tigers led 63-0 at halftime.
Lamar (9-2) dominated Wednesday’s game with Ash Grove from the get-go. The Tigers scored on its opening possession, then returned an interception for a touchdown on Ash Grove’s first play from scrimmage to take a 14-0 lead with less than a minute expired. Lamar led 42-0 at the end of the first quarter.
The Tigers will be playing a Butler team that also is coming off a big victory. Butler (8-3) rallied to beat Sarcoxie 33-30 on Wednesday. The Bears ran the 2-minute drill to perfection, marching 65 yards in 1 minute, 47 seconds and taking their first lead with 39 seconds left.
Bailey said the playoff experience has made Butler a better team. The Bears enter tonight’s matchup on a three-game winning streak.
“They’ve improved as the season has gone on,” he said. “The additional weeks and playoff time helps. Playoff football brings a higher level of energy. They’re experiencing what helped build our program over last three or four years.”
Butler quarterback Kolton Kauffman has passed for 1,161 yards this season, including 215 yards against Sarcoxie. Senior Tanner McGuire leads the Butler rushing attack with 1,213 yards and 20 touchdowns. Trey Mareth has been the top receiver with 36 catches for 707 yards and nine touchdowns.
Lamar’s offense is led by a running attack that features running back Jared Beshore and quarterback Levi Petersen. Both players are approaching 1,500 yards rushing on the season.
And having players like Beshore, Petersen and many more who were a part of last year’s state championship helps the Tigers understand the type of focus and preparation they need in order to make another title run.
“Winning the championship is one thing, but how we won it and having as many returning kids who weren’t just standing on the sidelines but were playing it,” Bailey said. “Those guys saw the focus and that level of determination to be successful. They were there. They were the ones doing it. They know what it’s like to be focused to that level.”