WARDSVILLE, Mo. - So far this season, the Blair Oaks football team has faced some pretty impressive individual talents. They'll do so again today.
Next up on the hit parade is Hermann quarterback Craig Winkelmann, who brings the Bearcats to town for a 7 p.m. contest today in the semifinals of the Class 2 District 6 Tournament.
The best endorsement of how good Winkelmann is came when Blair Oaks coach Brad Drehle was asked to describe him.
"I don't think he's as explosive as (Warsaw quarterback Jeremy) Eierman, but he's that type of kid," Drehle said. "Everything goes through him. He's going to handle the ball every time, he's going to make plays.
"Athletically, he's very similar to (California quarterback) Jaden Barr. Speed-wise he's very similar and physically he's very similar. I'm not sure Winkelmann throws the ball as well as Barr, but they're very similar. He presents problems all by himself."
Hermann operates out of the flex-bone, an option-based offense, and Winkelmann has had a hand in 29 of the Bearcats' 42 touchdowns. The 5-foot-11, 170-pound senior has rushed 145 times for 1,001 yards with 14 touchdowns, and has completed 46-of-90 passes for 756 yards and 15 scores.
When someone other than Winkelmann runs the ball, it's usually Saige Hale (5-10, 160, sr.), who has 706 yards on 74 carries, or Chris Hug (5-8, 180, sr.), who has 76 carries for 485 yards.
When Winkelmann goes to the air, his favorite target is Kody Thompson (5-11, 140, jr.), who has a team-high 17 catches for 292 yards and two touchdowns.
"This time of year, it boils down to who's able to teach their kids the best," Drehle said. "There aren't any secrets, the film's out there. If they have connections, they can have all 10 of our games at this point. They can scout us, they can have every tendency.
"It boils down to who can line up and do what they do the best. I don't think there's any secret to what we're going to do, I don't think there's any secret to what they're going to do. It's just a case of lining up and the Jimmys and the Joes going at it."
While Drehle said the Bearcats run roughly 86 percent of the time, you can't get lured into expecting only that.
"They're passing for big plays," he said. "Coming into a game like this, we're going to see everything, just like they'll see it from us. If we've got to use it, we're going to do it. You're not going to go home with any bullets left in your gun."
The top-seeded Falcons and fourth-seeded Bearcats are both giving up close to 20 points per game this season, with Blair Oaks having given up 206 and Hermann having allowed 194.
Winkelmann leads team in tackles with 76, while Jarrod Kolbe (6-1, 190, jr.) has 74, including 22 for loss. Jordan Leicht (6-2, 160, jr.) also has 74 tackles.
"They're playing a 3-3 front and man coverage all over the place," Drehle said. "They're going to have seven or eight guys within 3 yards of the football, and they're coming. So we're going to have to be able to handle that."
Blair Oaks (9-1) and Hermann (6-4) are very similar in another area, as both play in conferences with bigger schools, so they should be battle-tested after playing up all year long.
Hermann went 4-2 in the Four Rivers Conference, posting wins against St. James (41-0), Owensville (66-21), St. Clair (26-22) and Pacific (48-8). Their losses came to Sullivan (35-14) and Union (21-14).
"We've got a lot of teams in our conference that prepare us for this time of year," Drehle said. "... We feel like our schedule gives us an advantage - we've seen the speed and physical play and now it's a matter of fine-tuning what we do. ... I think they're in the same place."
Blair Oaks is coming off a 60-7 rout of eighth-seeded Father Tolton, while Hermann needed a last-minute touchdown and 2-point conversion to beat fifth-seeded Hallsville 34-27.
Drehle doesn't expect things to be so easy today.
"Without being disrespectful, you'd like to think the 8 seed is well overmatched (against top seeds)," he said. "You'd like to believe you can run your base stuff and just line up and go.
"Now, you're in a place where you've got to game-plan, you've got to position your kids right, you've got to grab tendencies, you've got to do all the extra things. Not that we didn't do them the week before, but in some of those ball games, you can throw those out because there's such a mismatch in teams.
"This week, all that other stuff becomes important."
Notes: Hermann's other win came against Cuba (49-6), while the other losses came to Montgomery County (23-20) and South Callaway (31-6). That would seem to be a bad omen for the Bearcats if they would be able to beat Blair Oaks, as second-seeded South Callaway hosts third-seeded Montgomery County today on the other side of the bracket. ... Today's winners will play for the district title at 7 p.m. Monday at the home of the highest remaining seed.