By Brennan Stebbins (for OzarksSportsZone.com)
Last fall was a strong rebound season for the Camdenton football team, which won five of six games to start the year and finished 7-4 for the program’s fifth winning record in six years.
“We had some really good wins and ended up being beaten twice by Lebanon,” said head coach Jeff Shore. “Both ball games were close at half time and they had a good ball club. We played young early and had good early wins. We probably had a bad ball game but I felt like it was a very good season, really enjoyable. The kids played hard, won big, and we hope to build on that momentum this year.
This will be Shore’s 12th season at the helm – and likely the last. Camdenton has had a Shore as its head coach every year since 1975. The stadium is named after Jeff’s father, Bob Shore, who coached for 35 years and is a member of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
“Everything points to that for me,” he said. “That’s probably going to be it.”
Shore isn’t one to downplay things and said he’s “super optimistic” heading into this year as long as the Lakers can stay healthy.
“They are a very experienced team,” he said. “It’s easy to coach because they’ve been through the wars I guess you would say. From a coaching point of view it’s going to be a really nice season. It’s probably going to be my last round and I really want to enjoy it and enjoy every moment.I am very optimistic and looking forward to the season in all aspects.
Camdenton is returning several players who won playoff honors, including All-State players Bear Shore and Jaden Parkman. Shore, Jeff’s son, was a Class 5 third-team quarterback and Parkman was a third-team defensive back.
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Shore led the entire state in passing for most of the season and finished with 2,588 yards and 24 touchdowns through the air while rushing for 475 yards and eight scores. In addition to the All-State nod, it also earned him All-Conference and All-District second-team honors. He has generated a lot of interest in the university and he also returns most of his receiving weapons.
Senior Kam Durnin was a first-team All-Ozark Conference athlete (and all-district wide receiver) who had 759 receiving yards and seven touchdowns to go along with 145 yards and two rushing scores. He also plays a quarterback and threw for 110 yards last season while completing 13 of 22 attempts. Senior Hayes Hulett returns after receiving 397 yards and two scores, Senior Reese Waters had 94 yards and a touchdown, Senior Javari Stewart had 300 yards and three scores and Junior Kyle Eidson had 347 yards and three scores and had a Honorable Mention All-Conference Honors.
That group alone includes four of the top five receivers from last season. The Lakers also have junior Blake Ford (141 yards, 1 TD) and Ethan Evans, who suffered a season-ending injury in Week 1 last year and is closing in on full speed.
“We’re playing five wide so we need 10-12 guys there honestly,” Shore said. “We have good young receivers. I feel really good with our quarterback and our receiving corps. We have a ton of experience back.
The Lakers won’t be very deep on the offensive line but will have some “really good and solid” seniors in place. Senior Jackson Scott will start at center, senior Gabe Norton (second team All-Conference and All-District) will likely start at one tackle point and junior Nathan Reap, junior Logan Wheat, junior Garret Hilton and senior Gunner Morris are all in the mix for the time up front.
The defense isn’t returning as much experience and needs to replace three linemen who have won all-conference honors.
There’s Parkman at the free safety, who in addition to his All-State honors was an All-Conference first-team defensive back and an All-District player. He’ll anchor the secondary and be one of the best defensive backs in the conference, Shore said.
Junior Spencer Mellencamp will also play a safety role. Senior Anden Vanskike is looking to earn a job as a starter at corner, Stewart could see time at corner, Kam Durnin could play safety or corner and his brothers Kade (junior) and Karson (senior) could also play in the secondary.
The linebacking squad includes junior Sam DeMott and senior Wiley Powers, who was the team’s top tackle as a sophomore but was injured midway through last season. Outside linebackers include Waters (honorable mention all-conference defensive back), senior Joshua Curley and senior Thomas McElyea.
Up front is junior Jeshua Balderas, Morris and senior Caden Jefferson, and Norton could play either way as well.
Kam Durnin has been the team’s kicker for two years. Other special teams contributors will be Jefferson, who excels in kick coverage, as well as junior Tyson Parkman and junior Willard DeMott.
“I think defensively we’ll be a bit bigger up front than we’ve been the last two years, which helps us,” Shore said. “I think we have a bit more weight in our front line on the defensive end. We did different things last year that we installed and there is a learning curve about that. This year we are ahead of the curve. We know exactly what we are doing, to attack and not to sit on our heels.
Camdenton will host Sedalia, Jefferson City and West Plains for the jamboree. The Lakers open the regular season in Rolla and won’t play a home game until they face Parkview on September 16.