WARDSVILLE - In a game with no shortage of big plays, the Blair Oaks Falcons managed to come up with the three biggest ones.
And they came in a variety of ways - a long field goal, a blocked punt and an option pass from a wide receiver - as the Falcons won a battle of state-ranked teams.
Blair Oaks' defense also got into the act, shutting down a team that had been averaging 41.4 points per contest, and the Falcons beat South Callaway 17-7 in a battle of state-ranked teams.
"We tell the kids all the time, "It's not what you did on the last play, it's the next one that counts. Win this play.' That's kind of our mantra," Blair Oaks coach Brad Drehle said. "They went out and did a great job."
The win clinched the Class 2 District 6 title for the Falcons, and earned them a berth in the state quarterfinals at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Palmyra (12-0).
"I guess we're headed north," Drehle said simply. "We'll go anywhere this time of year, it doesn't matter."
The big plays started early, as the Bulldogs got the game's first stand to halt a Blair Oaks drive that covered 54 yards in 12 plays before stalling at the South Callaway 11.
A 66-yard pass from Troy Hentges to Cory Hanger quickly flipped the field, and the Bulldogs scored the game's first points on a 21-yard run by Hanger with 6:02 left in the first quarter.
After the teams traded possessions, the Falcons were finally able to knot the game with a 96-yard drive that was reminiscent of a drive of the same distance that won the regular-season meeting with the California Pintos.
Taking a handoff at the Blair Oaks 4-yard line, Caleb Bischoff rambled 79 yards to get the Falcons down to the Bulldogs' 17. Three plays later, Haydn Lock, who split his time between receiver and quarterback, took a snap and raced it from 11 yards out to tie the game at 7 with 11:16 left in the second quarter. The score stayed that way until halftime.
"Haydn Lock, what can you say about his effort?" Drehle said.
But Lock wasn't done, not by a long shot, as he had two big plays in the third quarter.
But first, perhaps the biggest play of the game came from the foot of Chris Cooper.
A bad snap on a punt attempt by South Callaway put the Falcons in business at the Bulldogs' 29. After three plays went basically nowhere, Drehle sent out Cooper to try a 42-yard field goal with a howling wind at his back.
The snap from Hayden Haney to holder Jacob Wilbers went perfectly and Wilbers got the ball down for a no-doubter.
"Hayden and Jake were just great on the snap and hold and I just put my head down and followed through," Cooper said. "I looked up and saw it go through.
"It was real nice having the wind at my back for that one."
Not that it might have been needed.
"Chris has been hitting them from 45 pretty consistently in practice, it's just that every time we've kicked one (in a game), he's kind of gotten excited and over-kicked it," Drehle said. "Tonight, he just took a nice, fluid swing and the ball went through."
Cooper also nailed both PATs in the contest, making him 56-of-65 in that category this season.
"Jacob has done a great job - he goes unnoticed, but since he's taken over as holder, Chris has not missed a PAT. That's a big deal," Drehle said.
The kick seemed to take the life out of the South Callaway side of the field while energizing the Blair Oaks crowd. And after the teams traded possessions, it was time for Lock to put a charge into the Falcon faithful.
A drive for the Bulldogs stalled near midfield and the Bulldogs went back to punt. Lock charged through the line and, after getting his hands on three Hermann punts in a win last Wednesday, blocked another one. The ball skittered all the way back to the South Callaway 15 and the Falcons were in business again.
"He's got six blocked kicks this season, that's amazing," Drehle said. "That's got to be some kind of record."
A Blair Oaks touchdown run got called back for a block in the back on the very next play. So it was time for the Falcons to go to their bag of tricks on the very next play. Receiver Mikel Drehle took a pitch, rolled left and lofted a ball deep in the end zone. That's where Lock rose up and snagged it for a score.
Two big plays added up to double the fun for the senior.
"I just feel like going after the ball (on blocks), I think it's fun," Lock said. "I try as hard as I can to get the block."
On the catch, Lock said he had plenty of time to think as it dropped out of the sky from which rain had fallen pretty much all game.
"I was nervous," he said. "I saw it coming and I was like, "Come on, catch it, catch it.' Wet ball, wet hands, but I managed to get it and we scored."
That pretty much decided the game, as the Bulldogs (10-2) abandoned their running game down the stretch and were forced to throw, while the Falcons ate up time and yardage by running the ball.
The Blair Oaks defense held the high-octane South Callaway offense to just 226 yards, and just 98 yards rushing on 39 carries.
"They did a tremendous job," Drehle said of the defense. "They did everything we asked them to do. South Callaway is very good and you have to stay patient because they make adjustments and they just keep coming at you with different things."