So close and then far away

Kyle Yehle/PrepsKC

By Kyle Yehle PrepsKC Staff writer
Posted: November 24, 2017 - 6:41 PM



With 10:42 left in the game, Lafayette County had the six-time defending state champions on the ropes.

The Huskers had the ball trailing 16-14 with 99 yards of field to cover in order to take a late lead over Lamar, a Class 2 powerhouse seeking its 49th straight victory.

After a drive-ending sack, Lafayette had to punt - and the Tigers pounced.

In a span of fewer than three minutes, Lamar forced a turnover and scored three times to take a commanding 37-14 lead, cementing another state title in a legendary Missouri high school football run with a 37-20 win.

"The kids were really tight in the first half," Lamar head coach Scott Bailey said. "They finally made some big plays in the second half and gave us some breathing room. We relaxed after pressing early."

Lafayette County opened the scoring after forcing a Lamar fumble on the Tigers' first possession. In response, senior quarterback Kinser Madison hit fellow senior tailback Elijah Thirkield for a 42-yard passing score and a 7-0 lead with 9:38 left in the first quarter.

From there, Lamar imposed their will. Despite beginning their last drive of the first quarter with a penalty, junior speedster Trevor Medlin ripped off a 91-yard run to tie the game. Later in the second quarter, senior tailback Cooper Lucas converted a fourth-and-four with a 42-yard touchdown scamper. With a minute left before the half, officials called an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone on Madison - which resulted in a safety and 16-7 margin heading into the break.

"I feel like we were moving good, but sometimes we just didn't have enough to get a first down," Thirkield said.

The Huskers offense broke through late in the third frame with a momentum-shifting 6-yard slant toss score from Madison to senior receiver Caleb Russell. Madison finished 15-27 with 235 yards and 3 touchdowns.

"To be at that point in the ballgame within two points, we felt pretty good about that," Lafayette County head coach Steve Cook said. "We knew we still had a shot to win it."

Lamar quickly yanked the momentum back from the Huskers. Both teams stalled on their next drives, but Medlin struck again for the Tigers with a 48-yard tear for a 23-14 lead. Lafayette County fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and two plays later junior Travis Bailey sped untouched to the far pylon, making it 30-14.

With 4:46 remaining, Lamar followed up another stonewalled Husker possession with a Landon Hardman 50-yard punt return touchdown.

"We had [Hardman] wrapped up for a tackle at midfield," Cook said. "At that point, the momentum was pretty much lost."

Lafayette County tacked on a late scoring pass from Madison to Thirkield for the final score, but the damage was already complete.

Both state championship losses for the Huskers (14-1) have come at the hands of Lamar. They also lost in the 2015 semifinals to the Tigers.

After the postgame handshake, Bailey took Madison aside.

"He said we've come a long way in two years," Madison said. "I specifically remember him saying 'Go get your guys ready and see me again,' and we did."