After gaining a very important program first last week, it’s all firsts from here on out.
The Capital City Cavaliers (7-3) earned their first postseason win last week and now will play in the program’s first district semifinal as they hit the road to take on the Camdenton Lakers (8-2).
“I think we can play with anybody, I think we got the guys to do it,” Capital City coach Joe Collier said. “It’s just making sure that we don’t make those mistakes we’ve made in the past that hurt us. I think for the most part we’re growing from that. So I think if we continue to grow, we got a huge shot at winning this game and beyond.”
The Cavaliers will get an early look at a future Central Missouri Activities Conference opponent after Camdenton was officially announced as a new conference member Wednesday.
But first, they will play a team they haven’t faced in the program’s history for the first time in more than a year.
“It doesn’t change what we do, we approach this game the same as we have all the games,” Collier said. “I like to think that we prepared these guys for seeing people that we don’t see. We played a lot of teams that we generally don’t see in the summer and we just have time to prepare for it and they’ve got time to prepare for us. But seeing a different team, different colors, whatever, I don’t think it should bother us.”
No. 2 seed Camdenton survived an upset attempt from No. 7 seed Rolla in the first round, scoring with 20 seconds remaining for a 17-14 win, the lowest total the high-scoring Laker offense put up this season.
“Rolla made sure they got to the assignments on defense,” Collier said. “They really lined up to all the formations and made sure they didn’t get out leveraged and made sure that the motion in the backfield and the empty sets didn’t bother them.”
The Camdenton offense, averaging 38.9 points per game, had its previous low of 21 points in a Week 2 loss to Kickapoo and otherwise had only scored under 30 in a 26-point performance in a loss against unbeaten Lebanon in Week 8.
“They’re 90, 95 percent empty, so they motion in the backfield and then they get to the run,” Collier said. “We just can’t get out leveraged and we need to recognize formations and line up to what we’ve seen all along.”
The No. 3 Cavaliers’ defense has seen some major improvements the past four weeks, dropping its average of 32.33 points allowed per game through the first six weeks to 13.75 the past four games, helping lead the Cavaliers to the first four-game winning streak in program history.
“We got guys out there trusting their technique now and that’s a good thing to see,” Collier said of the Cavaliers’ improvements in the secondary. “That’s what we need moving forward.”
That Cavalier defense will face a high-flying Laker offense led by senior quarterback Kade Durnin (6-foot 3-inch, 185 pounds) who has completed 220-of-339 passes this season for 2,854 yards and 33 touchdowns with seven interceptions.
“We need to make sure that we get to the assignments so we’re not giving them those easy routes to throw,” Collier said. “Their quarterback’s pretty good and can sling it a bit, so we don’t want to make it too easy for them to get comfortable.”
Kyle Eidson (6-3, 175) has been his main target with 62 catches for 939 yards and 12 touchdowns, while Brayden Sheppard (6-2, 175) has 43 receptions for 658 yards and six scores. Blake Ford, the team’s leading rusher with 125 carries for 758 yards, also has more than 30 catches with 38 for 332 yards and two scores through the air.
Ford also has a co-team high eight rushing touchdowns, tied with Durnin who is the team’s second leading rusher at 79 rushes for 267 yards.
On the other side of the ball, the Capital City offense averaging 36.1 points per game after performances of 48, 49, 35 and 26 the past four weeks will face a Camdenton defense allowing only 19.9 points per game , including allowing 15 or fewer points in five games.
“I think they’re gonna play us in an odd front,” Collier said. “… A lot of three down lineman with their linebackers back and then coming close. We just got to keep our eyes up and look who’s in front of us and see who’s coming.”
Linebacker Sam Demott (6-0, 175) leads the Camdenton defense with 97 tackles, while junior linebacker Sterling Sederwal (6-2, 200) has 80.
“I know (Demott) didn’t play last game, he was in street clothes for whatever reason,” Collier said. But I’m looking for him to be back, they’ve got a lot of guys defensively who just fly around. It seems like they like to try to cause chaos.”
The Lakers have been successful getting teams behind the sticks, forcing 90 tackles for loss this season, while also forcing 14 turnovers with 10 interceptions and four fumble recoveries.
Shepherd leads the secondary with four interceptions.
The winner of Capital City and Camdenton will face the winner of top-seeded Helias (8-1) and No. 4 seed Washington (4-6) next Friday. Either would go on the road to Helias or host Washington.