Lafayette County's journey ends short of title

Jeff Stead/PrepsKC

By Brian Spano PrepsKC Senior Writer
Posted: November 26, 2011 - 10:04 PM



ST. LOUIS – The Lamar Tigers proved that defense does win championships by showing off its championship-caliber unit in St. Louis on Friday afternoon for all of Class 2 and the state of Missouri to see.
 
The Tigers, 14-1, put on a clinic frustrating a potent Lafayette County offense and winning the Class 2 Show-Me Bowl 49-19 inside the Edward Jones Dome.
 
“Those guys, when you look at them and they come out on the field, they don’t look very impressive,” Lamar head coach Scott Bailey said of his defense. “You look at them and, they play with as much heart as any team I’ve ever been around. They will absolutely sacrifice every bit of individual glory to make sure we’re playing team defense, and when you’re trying to contain a kid like number five (Lafayette County quarterback DeShaun Thirkield) who can throw it, who can run it for speed and power, he will find a way to hurt you. The 11 guys we put on the field have one thing in mind and that’s to play a team concept on defense.”
 
But hey, let’s don’t overlook the offense. During a span of 45 seconds in the fourth quarter, the Tigers scored three touchdowns after recovering two squibb/onside kicks. It was more than just the final nail in the coffin for the Huskers.
 
Lamar running backs Markell White, Jared Beshore and Brett Campbell provided the offensive sparks scoring two touchdowns apiece. White also threw for another.
 
“Our offense is pretty powerful, and we don’t throw the ball very much,” Markell said. “We try to pound teams and get the run game going. With all of us in the backfield, and we have great athletes in the backfield, you don’t have to key on one person, you have to watch all four of us back there, and our coach has done a great job getting us prepared and making this offense work.”
 
But this game was more about the Lamar defense, and Huskers coach Steve Cook knew it.
 
“One thing I noticed that we made an adjustment to it, we thought we did very well with our outside speed option game, and that’s been one our things we’ve hung our head on the last few ballgames,” Cook said of the defensive pressure. “There defensive end (Zakk Yokley), they relocated him to a B-gap to help them with our adjustments, and they did a real good scouting that. When we got into our trips game, they did a good job moving him back out to the edge.”
 
The only time that the Huskers, 13-2, were really a part of this contest was when they were down 7-0, kick returner LJ Williams took a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown to even the score at seven.
 
Lafayette County had a nice drive late in the third quarter, converting three fourth-down conversions, including the scoring play. It looked for a moment that the momentum could be shifting with the score at 28-13.
 
However, it was the start of the fourth quarter that Lamar went on the three-touchdown binge to put the ballgame away and go on to claim its first state title.
 
Before the kick recoveries, Beshore scored on a 30-yard run with 11:46 to play in the game. On the ensuing kickoff, the Tigers recovered the ball after a Huskers up man could not put a handle on it. Two plays later, quarterback Levi Peterson was in the end zone with 11:22 on the clock. On the next kickoff, Lamar recovered another squibb/onside kick. This time a 54-yard pass from White to Beshore, and the Tigers led 49-13 with 11:01 to play in the game.
 
The Huskers added another score late when DeShaun Thirkield hooked up with his brother Tyrell Thirkield on a 36-yard pass.
 
“I think the biggest thing is the rewarding feeling of paying them back,” Bailey said of his town’s support after winning his school’s first state title. “I’ve never been involved with a town that supports a team like our community supports us. Not just showing up for our games and being in attendance, but financially. Anything we need, our town makes sure we have. It’s just a very rewarding feeling to be able to bring a state championship back to Lamar after what has been a lifetime of wanting to do this.”