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STATE FOOTBALL: Lamar advances to state title game with 56-14 win over Seneca

SoMo Sports staff reports

LAMAR, Mo. — Lamar eliminated the turnovers and miscues that cost the Tigers in a loss to Seneca back in September. As a result, the Tigers are returning to the Class 2 state title game for the 10th time in 12 seasons.

Jared Beshore’s team raced out to a 28-0 first-quarter lead and never looked back, avenging the 36-33 loss at Seneca with a 56-14 win over the Indians in Saturday’s Class 2 state semifinal at Thomas M. O’Sullivan Stadium.

Lamar quarterback Joel Beshore runs for a touchdown in the Tigers’ win over Lamar in the state semifinals on Saturday. Courtesy Photo

“We were very physical on both sides of the football. Our kids were ready to play,” said Beshore, whose team will square off with Blair Oaks Friday. The Falcons (13-0) defeated Bowling Green 66-48 to stamp their ticket to the title game.

Lamar took the opening kickoff and orchestrated a five-play drive that covered 63 yards and culminated in a 48-yard scoring run by senior quarterback Joel Beshore, Jared’s younger brother.

“Our offensive line played really well. The kids bought into what we were trying to do,” said Coach Beshore.

Following a three-and-out by the Indians, Lamar set up shop at their own 31-yard line and on the first play from scrimmage, senior Ty Willhite broke loose on a jet sweep around the right end dashing 69-yards to paydirt.

Seneca junior passer Gavyn Hoover was under duress much of the afternoon. A third-down sack by Cameron Sturgell on Seneca’s next possession forced a punt. Three plays later Lamar was in the end zone again, this time on a pass from Beshore to Sturgell that covered 9 yards.

Lamar senior Austin Wilkerson demonstrated why he was the Class 2 Defensive Player of the Year last fall by picking off a pass on Seneca’s ensuing possession. He returned it for a touchdown and then early in the second quarter he showed that he could get it done on the offensive side of the ball too. The Tigers called a play-action pass and Beshore connected with Wilkerson who was all alone in the middle of the field. The 62-yard scoring strike put the home team up 35-0.

Despite the deficit, second year coach Cody Hilburn’s Indians showed resiliency. Seneca mounted a 15-play drive and worked the ball deep into Lamar territory. Junior running back Jackson Marrs picked up a third-and-5 and then a fourth-and-2 on the ground. Facing a fourth-and-1 from the Lamar 33-yard line, Hoover powered his way to a first down. They turned the ball over on downs when Lamar’s Rourke Dillion made a tackle for no gain on a fourth and five at the Tigers’ 25-yard line.

Lamar led 35-0 at the half.

Seneca came out of the locker room swinging, taking the second half kickoff and marching into Lamar territory. However, a deep pass on fourth and long from Hoover to Conner Ackerson was broken-up by Beshore.

Hilburn wasn’t surprised that his team continued to fight.

“We have high character kids in Seneca. We never have to coach attitude or effort,” he said.

For much of Lamar’s championship run over the last decade-plus, they have been a run-heavy team. However, since Beshore took over the helm of the program from Scott Bailey, the Tigers have incorporated a more balanced attack. They went to the air again late in the third quarter. Joel Beshore dropped a perfect spiral into the outstretched arms of Wilkerson who raced into the end zone from 30 yards out.

Hoover put a pass on the money to junior Blake Hurn for a 35-yard touchdown to put the Indians on the board late in the quarter.

Seneca’s Gavyn Hoover throws for a first down in the Indians’ loss to Lamar in the state semifinals on Saturday. Courtesy Photo

Lamar got fourth quarter scoring runs from Cooper Haun and Logan Kish and with just over a minute to play in the contest, Hoover scored on a 3-yard carry to set the final score.

Following the game, Hilburn praised his seniors:

“They bought in with every change. They never asked why, they just did it,” he said, adding, “And because of that, we were able to make it one step further than we did last year.”

Last season, the Indians reached the quarterfinal in Class 3.

They will bring back an experienced and talented group in 2023.

“Last year, we went right back to work after the season. These kids (that are returning) are going to have put in the time. We’re going to have to get bigger, stronger, faster,” said Hilburn, who says he believes the Big 8 Conference, which both schools are longtime members of, is the best small school conference in the state of Missouri.

Lamar defensive coordinator Chris Wilkerson echoed those sentiments.

“We had to beat a very good football team today. Our kids up front and playing in the box (on defense) played a hell of a football game,” he said.

Seneca finished with 129 yards on the ground. Hoover was good on 8-of-21 pass attempts for 110 yards. The Tigers were led in tackles by Willhite who had seven solo stops. Wilkerson had seven total tackles to go with his interception. His brother, sophomore Alex Wilkerson, picked off a pass in the second half.

Beshore was 5-of-7 passing for 150 yards. The Tigers (12-1) racked up 330 yards rushing. 

Lamar will be looking to earn the program’s ninth state title when they take Faurot Field on the campus of the University of Missouri in Columbia on Friday. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m.


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