WARDSVILLE — Two Mid-Missouri teams riding double-digit win streaks are on a collision course for the Class 2 District 5 championship.
Top-ranked Blair Oaks (11-0) hosts second-seeded South Callaway (10-1) tonight with a spot in the state quarterfinals on the line. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at the Falcon Athletic Complex.
The Falcons have appeared in a district title game each year since the current playoff format was implemented in 2012. They're trying to win their fourth straight district championship.
"When I started back in March and I sat down with the seniors, there were three overall team goals," Blair Oaks coach Ted LePage said. "The first one was to be a conference champ, the second one was to be a district champ.
"This means a lot to this team."
For the Bulldogs, this is their fifth district title game appearance in the past seven years.
South Callaway opened the season with a 41-20 home loss to Lafayette County. Since then, the Bulldogs have won their last 10 games, including a 14-6 victory against North Callaway last Friday in the district semifinals.
The Callaway County rivals have met four times in the past two seasons, each winning twice. South Callaway won both matchups this season, topping the Thunderbirds 33-32 in overtime in the regular-season finale."It was almost like watching a great heavyweight fight of two guys who have fought three or four times," LePage said. "One guy swings and they almost know where the swing's coming from."
South Callaway is led by senior quarterback Peyton Leeper (5-foot-10, 185 pounds), who has produced 2,286 yards of total offense.
Leeper has 923 yards rushing (7.0 avg.) and 19 touchdowns.
"He runs like a fullback," LePage said. "He is a very powerful and explosive runner. He never comes down on the first yank."
Leeper has also thrown for 1,363 yards and 17 touchdowns.
"Just as soon as you feel like he's going to go up the middle or outside on you, he's able to get it off to his running back or he's able to drop back and throw it," LePage said.
South Callaway is a triple-threat option offense, LePage said. The Bulldogs can run the mid-line option, the inside veer option or the outside veer option.
"What they do is they make you spread your defense out and they find the one option that will work for them each time," LePage said.
If the Bulldogs get the run game going, LePage said Leeper can extend the field with the passing game. Senior wide receiver Dylan Paschang (6-1, 140) has 22 catches for 455 yards and eight touchdowns, while junior tight end Caleb Hall (6-4, 200) has 35 receptions for 461 yards and a pair of scores.
"They're taller, they're longer than the (cornerbacks) they're facing," LePage said.
Senior running back Bradyn Belcher has 639 yards rushing (4.9 avg.) and six touchdowns.
For the second straight week, Blair Oaks will face a potent offense, as South Callaway averages 35.6 points per game. Father Tolton was averaging 34.3 points, but the Falcons stopped the Trailblazers cold in last week's 70-6 win.
"They gained some yards, but we never gave up the big play," LePage said.
South Callaway, meanwhile, will be tasked with trying to slow down a Blair Oaks squad that has scored 50 or more points in each of the past six games. The Falcons average 53.8 points per contest.
Leeper, a returning all-state defensive back, has lined up both at safety and linebacker this season. He leads the Bulldogs with 117.5 total tackles, including 12.5 tackles for loss, and six interceptions.
"When he sees it's a pass, he's able to get into pass coverage and he's usually around the ball when it's caught," LePage said. "Then when it's run, he acknowledges it's run and he goes and pursues the ball with extreme prejudice."
LePage said South Callaway will line up with an odd-man front of either three or five defensive linemen.
"They're able to get in and out of fronts and secondaries," LePage said. "In one of their games here recently, they were in four different defenses within about a 20-snap situation. And they're able to do it effectively without transferring players in and out."
Leeper isn't the only Bulldog playing both ways. Paschang has four interceptions at defensive back, while Belcher is second on the team with 64.5 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss.
"They look like a football team that's playing in November," LePage said, "and having a blast playing. They're really good, really disciplined."
Blair Oaks rushed for a season-high 356 yards against Tolton and nearly had three players with 100-plus yards rushing.
"You have to point and turn around and look at the offensive line," LePage said. "Those five guys last week were really bought in to taking guys down the field."
LePage said in addition to limiting turnovers offensively, the Falcons will have to come up with first-down stops if they want to win a district championship.
"South Callaway is one of the teams that, if they're able to get you where they're ahead of the sticks where it's second-and-6 or below, we're in a dangerous situation," he said. "If they feel like they can get four yards a down, they're going to continue to milk that clock."
This district championship game is a meeting of two conference champions. Blair Oaks won the Tri-County Conference with a 7-0 record, while South Callaway also went 7-0 in the Eastern Missouri Conference. Tonight is the first meeting between these two teams since they met in the 2013 playoffs. Blair Oaks won 17-7 to claim the district title. The winner of this District 5 championship game will play on the road in the quarterfinal round. The winner of the District 6 title game between Monroe City (10-1) and Clark County (9-2) will host either Blair Oaks or South Callaway next Friday or Saturday.