Osage’s passing game of concern to Blair Oaks’ secondary (with PODCAST)

It’s not exactly the irresistible force against the immovable object, but the main storyline for Friday’s game between the Blair Oaks Falcons and the School of the Osage Indians is still an intriguing one.

On the one side, you have the Indians’ passing game, which is accounting for 226 yards per game. On the other, you have the Falcons, who have racked up six interceptions in their last three games.

“I think the biggest thing will be how our kids defensively will handle them throwing the ball as much as they do,” said Blair Oaks coach Brad Drehle, who said the Indians pass about 70 percent of the time.

But Drehle was quick to add his team should be up to the task.

“We’ve got some kids we feel are pretty good athletes back there,” he said. “We’ve had some great corners, but as an entire group, we’re probably as good as we’ve been at any one time. ... They’re aggressive when they tackle, they get to the ball in a hurry, they do a great job in coverage.

“With somebody coming in like Osage, it’s a true challenge for (the secondary). We’ve talked about, ‘You’ve done these things, but now we’ve got this challenge. What are you going to do? Can you handle it?’ It will be fun to see.”

Some thought the Indians’ offense might have taken a hit in the offseason when do-everything quarterback Bo Dean transferred to Camdenton. But in stepped junior quarterback Austin Riley, who has completed 58-of-116 passes for 903 yards with nine touchdowns and two interceptions.

“He’s not as dynamic a runner (as Dean), but he probably passes the ball better,” Drehle said. “Bo Dean did some things where he got the ball out quick, but I wouldn’t categorize him as a strong-armed quarterback. (Riley) has a little bit stronger arm, throws a flatter ball down the field instead of having a little bit of arch on it. He’s a good athlete, he runs well, he throws well on the run.”

Dylan Jeffries is Riley’s favorite target. The senior has caught 26 passes for 344 yards with one touchdown. A pair of juniors, Jake Ulmer and Collin Samuelson, are tied for the team lead with three touchdown catches each. Ulmer has 13 receptions for 208 yards, while Samuelson has 10 for 216.

“They try to stretch you down the field,” Drehle said. “They like to throw all verticals. ... They try to break the field down into levels. You’ll get somebody in that intermediate area at 5-10 yards, then somebody at 10 or 15, then somebody running over the top of it. ... And they’ve got talented kids at all those spots. They just try to get athletes into space and make people tackle, knowing that all it takes is one mistake and they’re going to go.”

When it comes time for the Indians to run the ball, senior Seth Crooks leads the way with 54 carries for 208 yards and three scores. Riley has five rushing touchdowns on just 17 carries, and he has 64 rushing yards on the season.

On the flip side, Blair Oaks’ offense will be attacking a unique defense.

“It’s a 3-4 at times, it’s an old 5-2 at times and it’s an old 5-4 at times where they roll the safeties down,” Drehle said. “They play run real hard and they try to funnel everything inside with the outside linebackers. They get upfield hard and try to get the safeties to pinch in. It’s a different look, so you’ve got to do things a little bit different than what you’ve done.”

Drehle added his team had better be ready when it travels to Osage for the 7 p.m. kickoff.

“There’s no question that from their standpoint they definitely view us as a rivalry,” he said. “The thing I told our kids is dangerous is that the game looming on the horizon (Homecoming next week against California) is the one our kids consider a rivalry. This week, you’re going to go play somebody who’s going to get jacked up, geeked up for you. You have to focus 110 percent of your energy right here, right now. Because if you don’t, they’re going to punch you in the mouth.

“They’re going to come after us, and they’re going to do some special things before the game to get their kids fired up and the crowd fired up. We’re going to have to be able to weather the storm and handle that intensity right out of the gate.”

Notes: Both teams come into the game 2-0 in Tri-County Conference play, with Blair Oaks posting an overall record of 3-1 while Osage is at 2-2. The teams have two common opponents. Both beat Southern Boone (Blair Oaks won 48-0 and Osage won 45-20) and both lost to Moberly (Blair Oaks fell 48-18 and Osage dropped a 34-7 decision). ... In a statistical quirk, the Falcons have nine fumbles on the season and have lost all nine. “If you’re going to do it, you might as well do it right,” Drehle said with a wry smile. ... Drehle wants the team get better at limiting penalties. The Falcons have been flagged 30 times for 277 yards so far. “The jumping offsides is one that drives us crazy, and the kids know it. That becomes a mental thing. You want to grow through that. We went through that a year ago, too.”

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