By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
LAMAR, Mo. —
The tone was set early.
Lamar senior Levi Petersen broke through on the opening kick and returned the ball to Ash Grove’s 19-yard-line. Two plays later, Tigers sophomore Tripp Tucker cashed in on a 15-yard touchdown run.
Then, Lamar set the tone on defense. Sophomore defensive back Brett McDonald picked off quarterback Sean Mulkey’s pass on Ash Grove’s first play from scrimmage and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown.
Just like that, Lamar was up 14-0 with less than a minute expired. It didn’t stop there as the Tigers marched to a 63-0 halftime lead en route to a 69-28 win on Wednesday night in the second round of Class 2 District 4 competition.
“I felt like our kids really came out dialed in for the second time in a row,” Lamar coach Scott Bailey said. “I think last week we came out against Stockton really dialed in, and tonight we came out dialed in. That interception was just the result of Brett McDonald of being ready to play a football game when it started and jumping that route. I just felt like our focus as a team for the second game in a row has been really good.”
And it’s exactly the type of effort the Tigers want to see as they continue their quest for a second consecutive state championship.
“Coach tells us to never underestimate an opponent,” Petersen said. “You have to come into every game and have to work. It doesn’t matter whether the team is 0-10 or 10-0, you have to prepare the same every week. We practiced really well. We came in over the weekend and worked hard. We were ready to play this game tonight.”
Petersen, who rushed for 122 yards on six carries in the first half, scored on three touchdown runs and junior running back Jared Beshore scored on another to give the Tigers a 42-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Tucker, freshman Danny Embry and sophomore Johnny Brooks tacked on three more scores to give Lamar its 63-0 halftime lead.
Lamar (9-2) had five players — Petersen, Beshore, Embry, Brooks and Ethan Taffner — rush for more than 50 yards in the first half.
Ash Grove (7-4) was held to negative yards in the first half. The Pirates trailed 63-7 before scoring three fourth-quarter touchdowns.
Lamar advances to face Butler, a 33-30 winner against Sarcoxie, at 7 p.m. Monday at Lamar for the district championship.
“We need to not look past an opponent,” Petersen said. “We need to focus on one level of the playoffs at a time. Right now, I think we’re playing our best ball so far this season. We’re really meshing together. As long as we stay focused on what’s ahead, we’re going to be all right.”