For those outside the program, a return trip to the Class 2 state championship seemed unlikely.
In fairness, the Lamar Tigers held a 1-2 record after falling in consecutive games to Seneca (13-6) and Cassville (31-0). Sure, Lamar won the state title in 2011, but maybe the graduations of several talented seniors were too much. Maybe other teams were starting to catch up.
Or at least that’s what many of the sports journalists across the state seemed to wonder as they left Lamar out of the top 10 in the final Class 2 rankings released in late October. Technically, the Tigers were tied for 11th with seven points – 133 shy of top-ranked Lafayette County.
But while the media had questions, Lamar’s confidence never wavered.
“I can’t speak for the people around the state because I don’t know them, but the people in the brotherhood expected us to go back,” Lamar coach Scott Bailey said. “They knew what kind of football team we had and they knew what we were going through with our ball security problems and our injury problems. I can’t speak for the people around the state, but I don’t believe there was one person involved in this program who ever doubted.”
Since the two losses to Seneca and Cassville, Lamar has rattled off 11 consecutive wins and finds itself one step away from defending its state crown. The Tigers will face Blair Oaks at 2:15 p.m. Saturday at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis for the Class 2 championship.
The thing that was overlooked regarding the Tigers was that all of their problems that led to the 1-2 record were correctable. Lamar wasn’t having difficult running the ball against Seneca as it rushed for more than 400 yards. However, turnovers doomed the Tigers. Against Cassville, the turnovers continued and seven players were out with injuries, including star running back Jared Beshore and all-state offensive lineman Austin Boice.