Sep. 21—The Lamar Tigers are playing like a team on title defense so far in the 2021 campaign.
Led by a three-phase effort, the top-ranked team in Class 2 is off to a scorching 4-0 start for the first time since 2018, but seventh time in the last nine seasons. Lamar is fresh off perhaps its biggest win of the season with a 48-22 victory over Nevada in the Silver Tiger rivalry last week.
"I think we're in a good spot," Tigers coach Jared Beshore said. "We have played very well in all three phases of the game at certain points. I'm very confident with our personnel and our game plans we have been able to put together. The part I'm most pleased with is our physicality that our kids have been playing with. This was a group that I didn't know how physical of a team we could be until we went out and started playing games.
"We have been able to out-physical teams. I'm very happy with that, and hopefully that continues."
After claiming their eighth state title since 2011 last year, Lamar has opened the season with additional wins over Springfield Catholic, Reeds Spring and McDonald County by margins of 46-0, 54-14 and 31-7, respectively.
In total, the Tigers are outscoring their opponents 179-42.
And it's all thanks to the big boys up front setting the tone on the offensive line. There's a reason why Lamar's O-line is nicknamed the 'The Big Uns.'
"I always like to lump those guys into one group because it's a true team-effort, putting blocking schemes together and getting the entire box blocked up," Beshore said. "We have four seniors starting for us right now. To me, that is a great thing because you have a veteran group that understands the game."
The Tigers' also feature no shortage of talent at the skill positions. Beshore's younger brother, Joel, has taken the full-time reins at the quarterback position and ran with it. Senior Trace Willhite and juniors Logan Crockett and Austin Wilkerson are proving to be forces in Lamar's dynamic run game once again.
"Offensively, we've had some good production out of our quarterback Joel," Beshore said. "He has been able to throw the ball around a little bit and also be involved in our run game. We have many other kids we like to get the ball to in space. Logan is one of our runners and he has done really well. Austin and Trace. All of them have had very productive Friday nights for us running the ball."
Leading the receiving core is all-stater Mason Gastel. Riley Heckadon, Ian Ngugi and Terill Davis have also been part of that group.
"We have a lot of kids we can get the ball to," Beshore said. "When you have kids that you can distribute to, you want to do so as much as possible."
But defensively might just be the most dominant part of Lamar's team. It's a defense that returned nine full-time or part-time players from a year ago.
"Our D-line has been held down by Trace and Mike Mills," Beshore said. "They have been doing a fantastic job of getting penetration and reading their keys, making plays for us. Linebacker wise, the two Nance brothers (Khiler and Matthew) have done really well for us making plays against the run game. I have been very pleased with their production.
"Our defensive backfield is led by Austin (Wilkerson). He has been making play after play, week in and week out in the run game and against the pass game. There are a lot of guys who have stepped up and are doing their jobs as well, but those guys stick out to me."
Believe it or not, Week 5 marks the midway point of the prep football regular season in the Show-Me State. Lamar entertains Cassville (1-3) in a Big 8 West Conference matchup on Friday night.
"I'm happy with our start, but not satisfied," Beshore said. "We have a whole another half of the season to go, and we are just trying to find those small improvements that we can make each and every week. We want to get 1% better each and every day. We still have plenty of quality opponents to play this year. We are looking to take care of business one week at a time.
"This week is Cassville, so that's what we are focused on."