Clawing to the End

Ava High School quarterback Caleb Johnson wipes his eyes while consoled on the field following a 35-30 loss to Lamar High in a Class 2 state quarterfinal game Saturday, November 17, 2018, at Thomas O’Sullivan Stadium in Lamar, Missouri. (Jason Hoekema/Douglas County Herald)
Ava High School receiver Stephen Copeland (4) stiff-arms Lamar defender Travis Bailey (40) during a Class 2 state semifinal game Saturday, November 17, 2018, at Thomas O’Sullivan Stadium in Lamar, Missouri. Ava dropped the contest to Lamar, 35-30. (Jason Hoekema/Douglas County Herald)

Bears Drop State Class 2 Quarterfinal to Lamar, 35-30 

By Chance Dry

“ 7 more days” 

This is what the Ava Bears were fighting for on Saturday on the road against the Lamar Tigers, home of the reigning state champions. The Bears defiantly put on a show, a true story of a modern-day athletics David vs. Goliath. 

The Bears received the ball at the 1 P.M. kickoff, quickly held by the Tigers’ defense and forced to punt. The Tigers have the players and tools to run over a team, if allowed. The size of linemen, speed in the back field, all indicators of a championship football program.

Lamar put up 7 early in the first, scoring on a 40-yard carry and an extra point with 7:44 left in the first quarter. It wouldn’t take long for the Bears to answer, Nate Swofford concluding an 80-yard drive with an 8-yard carry to the pay dirt. Steven Copeland would make the conversion putting the Bears over the Tigers, 8-7.

The Tigers would put together a hard fought drive on a two-yard run by Hardman with 6:51 left in the half, adding the two point conversion to take the lead back from the Bears, 15-8.

The Bears answered with a mid-field drive, but were unable to score. Johnson punted to keep the Tigers inside their own 10 yard line with less than a minute left in the first half. Lamar’s Hardman would score from there with a 92-yard carry extending the Tigers’ lead, 21-8, into halftime.

The Bears returned confidently following the halftime break, creating a second-half tug-of-war contest with the Tigers. The Bears opened the second half holding Lamar to punting situation. 

Caleb Johnson found Kayden Myers out in the flat, putting the Bears in the Tiger red-zone. Johnson would score on a quarterback sneak at the 7:05 mark of the third quarter, settling without a two-point conversion but easing the deficit to one possession at 21-14.

The Bears denied another scoring possession for Lamar, with Steven Copeland deflecting a pass intended downfield for a Lamar receiver. 

Ava failed to capitalize on the possession, but wouldn’t sit idle. In the fourth, Josh Bray toppled game expectations with a hard hit, forcing a fumble the Bears would recover.

Ava High School’s Stephen Copeland (4) completes a pass reception while defended by Lamar defender Landon Hardman (24) during a Class 2 state semifinal championship game Saturday, November 17, 2018, at Thomas O’Sullivan Stadium in Lamar, Missouri. Ava lost the contest to Lamar, 35-30. (Jason Hoekema/Douglas County Herald)

The possession became a spectacle as Johnson and Copeland drove down field. Johnson found Steven Copeland downfield for a 19-yard pass. Two plays later Copeland got to the outside for a 13-yard touchdown, following with the two-point conversion putting the Bears over Lamar 22-21 with just over 9 minutes left in regulation.

Lamar would answer quickly with Duncan Gepner, from 1 yard out. Gepner was stopped short on the two point conversion, but Lamar took back the lead, 27-22.

A three-play drive by the Bears’ with Caleb Johnson finding receiver Nate Swofford deep in Tiger territory, with a pivotal personal foul called on Lamar, moving the Bears down to the 22-yard line. 

Caleb Johnson found Josh Bray in the end zone for six and Nate Swofford was able to run-in for two more, putting the Bears back on top 30-27 with 6:23 left.

The Tigers offense orchestrated a time-consuming 75-yard drive, scoring on a 39-yard spring by Landon Hardman, adding two points with a conversion and produced the final, 35-30, outcome over the Bears. 

The Tigers held the Bears to a fourth-and-four midfield, gaining control of the clock and the game’s outcome. 

Ava High School quarterback Caleb Johnson wipes his eyes while consoled on the field following a 35-30 loss to Lamar High in a Class 2 state quarterfinal game Saturday, November 17, 2018, at Thomas O’Sullivan Stadium in Lamar, Missouri. (Jason Hoekema/Douglas County Herald)