A flat tire on the way across the state was about the only thing stopping Lamar High School's football team Saturday.
The brief delay on the trip to Mountain View notwithstanding, the ride to a third straight semifinal berth for the Class 2 defending champions was smooth, throttling Mountain View-Birch Tree Liberty 55-14.
"Not bad for the 11th best team in Class 2, huh?" said Lamar coach Scott Bailey, referring to his team's position on the fringe of the state rankings this season.
Despite two early-season losses to tough Big 8 Conference opponents, the truth is these Tigers are loaded. Lamar (11-2) could very well hoist a second straight state title on Thanksgiving weekend in St. Louis.
Lamar, which will play host Saturday to Caruthersville, did not throw the ball Saturday, outgaining Liberty in rushing yards, 484-91. Lamar had 33 first downs compared to nine for the Eagles (10-3).
"I feel, as a team, I think we're better than we were last year," Austin Boice said. "We just have to stay on our blocks longer, so we can turn some of those long runs into touchdowns. That's the thing I see that we could do better as an offensive line."
Boice is a 6-foot-7, 290-pound senior right tackle who helps create mismatches in the run game. He has been offered a scholarship by Wyoming and said he's also had interest from Missouri, Arkansas, Tulsa and Missouri State.
Boice missed time this season, as the injury bug hit the team early, contributing to losses to Seneca and Cassville.
Now mostly healthy, the Tigers have found their form. In the last nine games, all wins, Lamar has outscored opponents 471-87.
During a stretch late in the second quarter and into the third, Lamar ran 15 of 16 offensive plays for either a first down or a touchdown. The other play was a kneel to send the team into halftime up 35-7 -- the only time Lamar was stopped on a drive all game.
"In past years, we've had slow starts, but we're really rolling this year and getting fast starts," said Lamar junior quarterback Levi Petersen, who had 176 rushing yards and three touchdowns. "With all due respect, (Liberty) had some physical players the last few years, and this year, they did just have that kid who would put a lick on some kid."
Running back Jared Beshore added 162 yards and four touchdowns.
The Eagles will return several key players, including quarterback Jaelon Acklin and running back/wide receiver James Denton, who accounted for the scoring on Saturday.
But a fourth straight playoff meeting with Lamar, who the Eagles haven't been able to beat, could again loom.
"The guys they have up front are just unreal," Liberty coach Darin Acklin said. "We try to simulate it in practice, but there's not much you can do. It's just a whole 'nother league that we don't see all year.
"We are going to have to do a lot of things better, obviously, if we're going to get past Lamar. It's not going to change any, the schedule is going to stay the same.
"They are setting the bar of where we need to be."