Blair Oaks embraces changes among coaching staff

Blair Oaks defensive linemen Carson Luebbering (left) and Bryson Varner (right) wrap up running back Hayden Lackman for a stop near the line of scrimmage during Saturday’s scrimmage at the Falcon Athletic Complex in Wardsville. (Greg Jackson/News Tribune)

WARDSVILLE -- There are bound to be new faces on the football field every season. The Blair Oaks Falcons are no exception.

The Falcons will have one or two new faces on defense, a few more new starters on offense and definitely a new starting quarterback.

But Blair Oaks, which is coming off an undefeated season and a Class 2 state championship, will also have a few new faces on the sidelines and in the coaching booth this fall.

Offensive coordinator Lerone Briggs, defensive coordinator John Butler and linemen coach Andy Terpstra each stepped down this past offseason after helping Blair Oaks to three state titles in five seasons, as they either head into retirement or plan to spend more time with family.

Briggs stepped down after 21 years of coaching alongside Ted LePage, during both of his coaching stints at Blair Oaks and also at Jefferson City. Under Briggs, the Falcons averaged at least 50 points per game in four of the past five seasons and set many program records.

“Lerone is the guy who can turn on the lights when it’s dark,” LePage said after Saturday’s team scrimmage at the Falcon Athletic Complex. “He was so positive, he was so refreshing for the kids. He was able to communicate and educate the players.

“He was able to take our offense each week and keep it fresh.”

LePage also praised Butler’s communication skills, noting his ability to make in-game adjustments led to many Falcon victories. Blair Oaks allowed just 15.6 points per game last season, and in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, the Falcons held opponents to less than 10 points per game.

“He was able to talk the language of the players,” LePage said. “But at the same time, he had such a great experience from all of his coaching endeavors, that he was able to bring that with him and put it into our program, put it into our defense. Our players really enjoyed playing for him.”

Terpstra played for and coached alongside LePage at Jefferson City before arriving at Blair Oaks. In addition to coaching the linemen, he provided a vocal energy on the sidelines and during pregame warmups. LePage said Terpstra was “a player’s coach, but he coached them hard.”

“That was a role he really took pride in,” LePage said. “Stretching before games, it may sound easy, but you have to come out and you have to light that fire right off the bat. He brought the energy every day, he brought the energy to every meeting.”

With their departures, it has led to some shuffling within the Falcons’ coaching staff ahead of the 2023 season.

Mike Hall will take over as defensive coordinator after coaching linebackers last season. LePage noted Hall already has great relationships with several returning players on defense.

“He’s been a defensive coordinator, he’s been an offensive coordinator, he’s been a head coach,” LePage said. “He’s been everything, he’s a lot like coach Butler.”

LePage said he plans to call the offensive plays this season, but assistant coaches Josh Linnenbrink -- the Falcons’ longest-tenured coach -- and Mike Cook -- who returns to Blair Oaks after briefly coaching at Capital City -- will also help with the offense.

“Getting coach Cook back was awesome, what a huge hire for us, with a capital H,” LePage said. “He is so well-liked by the players.”

Another newcomer to the coaching staff is Grant Hopkins, who will coach wide receivers and defensive secondary. LePage described Hopkins as a “cognitive coach.”

“I was told a long time ago, if you’re going to be a head coach, you have to hire guys who don’t think like you,” LePage said. “He has a different thinking system. It makes me sit back and go, ‘Gosh, he’s right. I have to look at it from this perspective.’”

Shaun Hall returns to coach the defensive line and running backs, while Ben Stockman is also back for the Falcons as an assistant coach.

The Blair Oaks coaching staff was finalized in May and quickly hit the ground running during the summer months.

“It’s been a tremendous summer,” LePage said. “I’ve had a lot of fun, we’ve gotten out here early and we’ve stayed late.”

Blair Oaks will host a Jamboree on Friday against Helias and Southern Boone. Each of the three scrimmages will feature teams running 18 plays on offense and 18 plays on defense.

The Falcons begin their season Aug. 25 with the annual Kickoff Classic against Maryville at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.