Blair Oaks to host California in state-ranked battle [with PODCAST]

It's a game that needs no extra hype, but there’s plenty of it to go around.

When the Blair Oaks Falcons host the California Pintos on Friday at the Falcon Athletic Complex, it will be the latest game in an always-heated rivalry.

Then you factor in both teams are state-ranked — California is third in Class 3 and Blair Oaks is ninth in Class 2 — and it gets even more interesting.

Plus, it’s going to go a long way toward deciding the Tri-County Conference title, as both teams are 3-0 in league play.

And oh-by-the-way, it’s also the Homecoming game for Blair Oaks.

“We’ve had an opportunity to grow up over the last few weeks, and the thing you want to do as a coach is see what your kids can handle,” Blair Oaks coach Brad Drehle said. “How are they going to handle the spotlight? How are they going to handle the crowd? Because you’d like to think that as we progress and get better, the games will get bigger.

“This one is going to give us an opportunity to look forward at what our kids may be capable of. Win or lose, the way that we handle the ball game, handle the atmosphere, handle California and everything that goes along with that, will go a long way to determining our success later in the year.”

The game matches up a pair of high-octane offenses, as California comes in averaging 44.2 points per contest and Blair Oaks is at an even 44.

The Pintos are averaging 370 yards of offense per game, with 291 coming on the ground. A varied attack has seen a number of different ballcarriers in the first five games.

“It’s (Walker) Borghardt, it’s (Jerry) Lutz, it’s (Seth) Fairchild and it’s (Dylan) Albertson, and then there’s the quarterback, Jaden Barr,” Drehle said. “Those kids are all very talented.”

He didn’t even mention Luke Burger, who leads the team with five rushing touchdowns. Barr has four, while Borghardt, Albertson, Lutz and Fairchild have three each.

Fairchild leads the balanced attack with 376 yards on just 34 carries. The Pintos are averaging a whopping 7.7 yards per carry.

“When you have as dominant an offensive line as they do, you can run a lot of kids back there,” Drehle said. “And when you’re as dominant defensively as they are, you can run a lot of kids through there, because you know a mistake here or there is not going to hurt you since your defense can handle it.

“They can play defense from anywhere on the field and shut you down. They take a lot of pride in it.”

And if the offensive and defensive prowess of the Pintos weren’t enough, they can also beat you another way.

“Their special teams are good, they constantly make you go a long field,” Drehle said. “Their kicker (Aaron Cuevas) is special. He takes two steps and kicks the ball down inside the 5-yard line every time, and one out of every three is in the end zone. He’s a special player.”

The Falcons are hoping to take some solace in the fact they’ve played a similar-looking team this season, thanks to taking on Moberly in the season opener.

“Moberly is a similar kind of team, a very good football team that’s going to win a lot of football games,” Drehle said. “We saw a similar type of team with physical play and big kids, so hopefully that experience will be good for our kids. Hopefully we don’t walk out there and are shell-shocked by the size and the physicality of how they play.”

The Falcons also want to avoid the kind of start they had last year in a 31-19 loss at California.

“It’s about not digging ourselves a hole,” Drehle said. “They came out extremely fired up and we made a couple mistakes, or they caused us to make mistakes, however you want to put it. We put ourselves in a hole.

“The longer the game can stay at 0-0, or really close, the better off we are. I don’t know how long we can do that, but I’ll tell you our kids will come out and compete.”

While the Pintos run the ball 79 percent of the time, the Falcons have presented a more varied look this season. They have 1,241 passing yards and an even 1,000 rushing yards.

“It’s nice to know that we can run and throw the football,” Drehle said. “It makes it harder for people to load the box, it makes them harder to bring pressure.”

Notes: The teams have two common opponents this season, as both beat Hallsville and Southern Boone. California ripped Hallsville 57-8, while Blair Oaks beat the Indians 38-8. Both teams blanked Southern Boone, with the Pintos winning 42-0 and the Falcons winning 48-0. ... California’s other wins came against Boonville (42-7), Mexico (42-14) and Eldon (38-0).

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