WARDSVILLE - After a great start and a so-so finish, Blair Oaks coach Brad Drehle was able to sum up Wednesday night's 35-13 win against Hermann very simply.
"We lost a little focus, didn't we?" he asked.
That was exactly the case in the Class 2 District 6 semifinal contest. The top-seeded Falcons raced out to a 35-0 lead midway through the third quarter - bringing the mercy rule's running clock into effect - only to see the fourth-seeded Bearcats have the better of play the rest of the game.
Hermann outgained Blair Oaks 201-38 over the final period and a half and outscored the Falcons 13-0.
"They made some nice and adjustments and we lost focus - we made a lot of silly mistakes," Drehle said.
Prior to that point, Blair Oaks had racked up an edge in total yardage of 285-82. So while the start was great, the Falcons didn't get that "complete game" coaches are always searching for.
"We just didn't play very well in the second half and they did," Drehle said. "They came out and made some nice adjustments and were able to run the football on us. I really think for the first two and a half quarters we did a nice job."
The Falcons jumped out to a quick start thanks to the great defensive play of Haydn Lock. The senior, who got his hands on the second and third Hermann punts of the night to slow them down, blocked the first punt attempt perfectly. After Lock snuffed the attempt, Peyton Wilde scooped up the ball and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown.
"Haydn's done a great job all year long," Drehle said. "He got his hands on three punts tonight and thank goodness, because we needed all of them."
Chris Cooper kicked the first of his five PATs and the Falcons led 7-0 less than four minutes into the game.
After Hermann went three-and-out on its next possession, Lock tipped another punt, causing it to travel just 7 yards. The Falcons took advantage of the short field, as a 23-yard pass from Jordan Hair to Mikel Drehle set up a 43-yard touchdown run by Dominic Jamerson that made it 14-0.
Three straight drives went nowhere before Blair Oaks scored with 5:44 left before halftime on a 15-yard run by Caleb Bischoff that capped a four-play, 60-yard drive.
An interception by Blair Oaks' Adam Schell halted the next Hermann drive and the Falcons went 68 yards in eight plays, capped off by a 38-yard scoring pass from Hair to Drehle.
At intermission, the Falcons had a whopping 256-80 edge in total yardage.
The final score for Blair Oaks came after a nice punt return by C.J. Closser, plus a facemask penalty by the Bearcats on the play, put the Falcons on the Hermann 21-yard line. Three plays later, Jamerson broke free from numerous tackles and bulled his way into the end zone from 14 yards out.
"We did some good things," Brad Drehle said. "We're all going to walk out of here a little bit frustrated tonight, but the key is going back and evaluating film. It's not all good and it's not all bad. We've got to find the good things and emphasize those, but at the same time, learn from things that weren't good."
Jamerson ended up with a game-high 129 yards rushing on just 12 carries. Mikel Drehle had a big night catching the ball, as he hauled in five passes for 104 yards.
The Falcons held Craig Winkelmann, the Bearcats' 1,000-yard rusher, to just 35 yards on 23 carries. Hermann (6-5) rushed the ball a total of 51 times for 157 yards.
The win sets up a showdown for the district title between two state-ranked teams. South Callaway (10-1) advanced to Monday's 7 p.m. title game with a 42-7 win against Montgomery County. But because the Falcons, ranked eighth in the state, are the higher-seeded team in the district, they will host the sixth-ranked Bulldogs.
"We've got to get better," Brad Drehle said. "South Callaway is going to come in here and run the same type of offense (as Hermann), and they're better at it. It's a short week and a short turnaround, so there's a lot of work to be done in a short amount of time."
With those seven points allowed Wednesday, South Callaway has given up just 71 on the season, and 38 of those came in one game - the Bulldogs' lone loss of the season, a 38-33 defeat at the hands of Battle.
"We've got a tall task ahead of us, and we didn't carry much momentum out of the second half (of Wednesday's win)," Drehle said. "We've got some work to do and we've got some things we have to get better at and we've got to be better when we walk out there on Monday. The good thing is they have to come to us."