The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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November 24, 2012

Lamar tackles Blair Oaks in Class 2 championship game

The Lamar Tigers shouldn’t have any concerns about players being intimidated by the massive venue of the Edward Jones Dome.

Winning the Class 2 title last year, the Tigers are quite familiar with the stadium and the entire process that goes with competing in a Missouri state championship football game.

Lamar (12-2) will face Blair Oaks (13-1) at 2:15 p.m. today in St. Louis with a chance to repeat as champions.

“I think it will help them relax,” Lamar coach Scott Bailey said. “The players have been there. They know the routine.”

Many of Lamar’s starters were in key roles last year, so the pregame jitters should be tolerable.

“That will be a big advantage,” Lamar senior linebacker Chad Rice said. “We know what to expect.”

Blair Oaks hasn’t played in a state title game since 2007. However, that’s not to say the Falcons haven’t played in big games as they advanced to the semifinals a year ago. The program has a strong tradition, winning state championships in 2004 and 2006.

“The first thing that jumps out to me is that they’re well coached,” Bailey said. “They’re not going to be out of position. They get off their blocks. The second thing I notice is the quality of their skill players.”

Falcons quarterback Daniel Castillo has completed 101 of 182 passes for 1,757 yards with 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He also has rushed for 972 yards and 13 touchdowns on 160 carries.

Lamar knows it will be challenge to stop Castillo despite Blair Oaks coach Brad Drehle saying that he is at only 70 percent with a foot injury.

“I’d hate to see him at 100 percent if he’s only at 70 percent,” Bailey said. “He’s a physical runner, which makes him dangerous.”

Running backs Derek Otto and Eli Roberts also are key to the offense. Otto has rushed for 1,310 yards and 23 touchdowns, while Eli Roberts has contributed 894 yards and 12 touchdowns despite missing some time with an injury.

“You look at their quarterback and both their running backs, and they look like triplets,” Bailey said. “You watch them, and they’re all similar in how they play.”

While Lamar will have its hands full trying to stop Blair Oaks, the Falcons are going against a Tigers rushing attack that has been dominant throughout the playoffs. Lamar is averaging 65 points per game in the playoffs despite rarely putting the ball in the air.

Plus, Blair Oaks had only one week to prepare for Lamar’s two-quarterback misdirection offense.

“It is a very unique offense,” Drehle said. “And the kids are big, physical and fast. It is a big week for us mentally and physically to get ready to be able to handle it.”

The Tigers have rushed for 422.4 yards per game and — with strong performances — could finish the season with two 2,000-yard rushers. Junior running back Jared Beshore enters the game with 1,946 yards and 26 touchdowns, while junior quarterback Levi Petersen has 1,883 yards and 31 touchdowns. Beshore is averaging a ridiculous 12.3 yards per carry, and Petersen is getting 8.6 yards per tote.

Lamar hopes to keep running to its second state title.

“It took a lot of work to get here,” Bailey said. “I’d hate to get this far only to come this far.”

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