By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Mo. —
The Lamar Tigers football team faced adversity on their road trip to Liberty (Mountain View-Birch Tree).
Luckily for the Tigers, little of that adversity occurred on the field.
A tire blew out during the team’s 180-mile bus ride to Mountain View. However, it did little to affect the Tigers’ concentration as they scored the game’s first 21 points en route to a 55-14 win over the Eagles. Lamar is now two wins away from defending its Class 2 state championship and will host Caruthersville in the semifinals at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
“The tire blows out on the bus coming over here,” Lamar coach Scott Bailey said. “I mean, we got chaos just trying to get to this place. And I look at our kids and they’re all just kind of smiling like ‘it’s just another day of being in the brotherhood because we go through this stuff every day.’ The thing is that they’ve become very resilient and very mentally tough.”
The distraction seemed to have little to no impact on the Tigers. Lamar junior defensive back Jared Beshore intercepted a Jaelon Acklin pass on Liberty’s opening possession and returned it about 25 yards to the Eagles’ 9-yard-line.
Lamar quarterback Levi Petersen ran for a touchdown on the next play to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead with less than a minute-and-a-half off the clock.
“I will tell you that it doesn’t pay to throw at Jared,” Bailey said. “Teams continue to throw at him, and he continues to pick them. He’s good at staying on hips. He’s good at reading routes, and he’s definitely good when the ball is in the air.
“It sure helped us. It gave us a short field and helped give us a quick lead.”
Lamar (11-2) forced Liberty to a punt and turnover on downs in its next two possessions. And the Tigers capitalized on both with Beshore and Petersen scoring on runs of 1 and 6 yards, respectively.
“We’re getting off to fast starts, and that’s not something we’ve done in past years,” Petersen said. “That’s a good sign for us.”
Liberty (10-3) ended its season against Lamar for the third consecutive season, falling 33-18 last year and 21-20 in 2010. Despite seeing the Tigers’ two-quarterback misdirection offense before, the Eagles struggled to find the ball.
Beshore rushed for 176 yards and four touchdowns, and Petersen ran for 134 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomore quarterback Tripp Tucker added 96 yards as the Tigers ran for nearly 500 yards as a team. They didn’t attempt a pass.
“It’s very tough. You don’t see that type of offense all year long,” Liberty coach Darin Acklin said. “The guys they have up front are just unreal. We try to simulate it as much as we can in practice, but that’s just another league they got going on right now. We don’t see anything like that all year.”
The Tigers also maintained a strong defensive effort. Acklin hit James Denton on a 38-yard touchdown pass to make it 21-7 at the 7:24 mark of the second quarterback. Acklin also scored on a 39-yard touchdown run to make it 49-14 with 2:44 left in the third quarter. But for a player who entered with more than 2,800 yards of offense and 41 touchdowns, Lamar kept him and the Eagle offense mostly in check.
Liberty entered averaging 38.8 points per game.
“Their offense put up 14, and I know they’ve been averaging a whole lot more than that,” Bailey said. “So you have to look at what our defense has done. If you go all the way back to Mount Vernon game, our defense has given up a touchdown a game. We gave up two today, but we gave up two to a very good offense.”
Now, Lamar must get past Caruthersville (10-2), which beat Maplewood-Richmond Heights 54-37 on Saturday. Caruthersville opened its season with a 48-12 loss to Liberty.