Friday Football: Blair Oaks pushes past early fumble to rout Seaman

Sam Closser of Blair Oaks (left) strips the ball from Seaman wide receiver Bryer Finley, while Nick Closser (right) went on to scoop up the loose ball and return it for a touchdown during Friday night's game at the Falcon Athletic Complex in Wardsville. (Garrett Bradley/News Tribune)

WARDSVILLE -- It was all too familiar of a start for the Blair Oaks Falcons.

In Week 2, Blair Oaks lost a fumble deep in its own territory on its first possession, Lutheran North scored on the very next play and the Crusaders never trailed, going on to win 38-30.

On Friday, Blair Oaks lost a fumble deep in its own territory on its first possession, Seaman scored on the very next play and the Vikings led 7-0 just 16 seconds into the game.

“We got the ball to start, and I’m thinking, ‘All right, we’ve got the momentum,’” Blair Oaks coach Ted LePage said. “And we fumble it on the first play.”

But this time, Seaman didn’t lead wire to wire. Blair Oaks answered again … and again … and again.

The Falcons scored the next six times they had the football, then added a defensive touchdown for good measure just before halftime. The onslaught ended with a 63-28 Blair Oaks victory at the Falcon Athletic Complex.

“I thought we could move the ball on them,” LePage said. “I thought they were going to get some stops on us, but we only stopped ourselves.”

Following Seaman’s 19-yard touchdown pass from Max Huston to Callen Barta, Blair Oaks answered with a six-play, 62-yard drive that feature four consecutive 10-plus-yard plays, including three runs.

“We were able to bring the big play back, and that’s going to become a bigger part of our offense,” LePage said.

The Falcons scored their next two touchdowns on play-action fakes.

Tyler Bax faked a handoff to Hayden Lackman, then found Nick Closser wide open down the field for a 49-yard touchdown strike. On the next possession, Bax faked another handoff and kept the ball to himself, darting through the Seaman defense for a 29-yard touchdown run to give the Falcons their first lead at 21-14 with 2:58 left in the first quarter.

“I tell the players you have to embrace the boredom of doing the little things over and over in order to be great,” LePage said. “I’ve seen our offense, the last couple of weeks, get better and better.”

Huston scored on a 1-yard quarterback keeper to tie the game at 21.

Then the Blair Oaks special teams put the Falcons ahead for good.

“I’m pleased with the way our offense is progressing, but the story tonight has to be our special teams,” LePage said. “Our special teams were off-the-charts good.”

Joey Wilde scored his second kickoff return touchdown of the season, this time from 98 yards, tying Derek Shikles’ school record for longest kickoff return.

“There was a lot of nice blocking,” LePage said. “Joey did a great job on the run, but you got to see Wyatt Meldrum come from the back side and get in the trafficway of anything extra. He did that, and Joey made the move.”

On the ensuing kickoff, Nolan Laughlin kicked the ball to the 1-yard line. Instead of bouncing into the end zone for a touchback, the ball bounced straight up, then back one yard, forcing the Seaman returner to pick the ball up. He was tackled at the 8-yard line.

Laughlin had three touchbacks on kickoffs during the game. In addition to starting three times at the 20-yard line, the Vikings began three other possessions inside their 20.

“Nolan works at it,” LePage said. “He made all his extra points, that’s a goal for our team. But him kicking and being able to position the ball, he had that extra ‘oomph!’ and put it in the end zone. That makes a big difference when you have to go 80 (yards) instead of 65.”

With less than two minutes to go in the first half, the Blair Oaks defense got in on the scoring.

Seaman wide receiver Bryer Finley caught a short pass across the middle on a crossing route. Trailing him was Sam Closser, who came up from behind and punched the ball out of Finley’s hands.

“He’s going against a 6-foot-5 receiver and the receiver beat him,” LePage said. “But he never quit.”

The ball bounced in the direction of Sam Closser’s older brother, Nick Closser, who scooped up the ball at the Seaman 30-yard line and crossed the goal line along the near sideline just before going out of bounds for a touchdown.

“He hit it out and it just had a perfect bounce,” Nick Closser said. “I just scooped it up.”

Nick, a senior, and Sam, a sophomore, both start in the Blair Oaks defensive secondary. The older Closser was appreciative of the opportunity for the two to team up for the defensive score.

“Many people don’t get to do that,” Nick Closser said. “For us to make that play, it meant a lot to me.”

Earlier in the game, Nick Closser scored his fifth receiving touchdown, but he also finished with three carries for 45 yards, all coming on jet sweeps.

“You have to give credit to the guys on the outside,” Closser said. “They’re holding their blocks for me to get around. That makes it easy for me to run.”

The defense came up big again on the final play of the first half. With the ball on his team’s own 40-yard line, Huston broke loose for a long run, working to find the end zone.

However, Wilde tracked Huston down inside the 10-yard line, then Nick Closser helped tackle him just short of the goal line, keeping the score at 49-21.

“That may have been the play of the game,” LePage said.

Huston finished the game 17-of-32 passing for 200 yards and three touchdowns, each to a different receiver. He also had 15 carries for 119 yards and another touchdown.

However, after starting the season with 141 passing attempts without an interception, Brady Kerperin ended the streak with an interception near midfield, setting up a Blair Oaks 33-yard touchdown pass from Bax to Lackman.

“I was really excited that we got his first interception,” LePage said.

Seaman, a Class 5A school from Topeka, Kan., drops its record to 2-3 with Friday’s loss. It was the Vikings’ first game against an out-of-state opponent, while the Falcons were playing their first non-Missouri foe since the 2005 season.

“It was a great win for us,” Nick Closser. “It definitely boosts our confidence for next week.”

With 20 bonus points for playing a bigger school and a win by at least 13 points, the Falcons moved up to No. 2 in the district standings past Centralia, trailing Moberly by 3.11 points.

“This was a win-win situation for us,” LePage said.

Blair Oaks (5-1), ranked No. 1 in Class 3, will host Eldon for Homecoming at 7 p.m. Friday. Eldon (2-4) is coming off a 75-49 loss to Southern Boone that featured multiple broken records.

The next three weeks will be an opportunity for the Falcons to focus on another season goal: winning the Tri-County Conference.

“Outside of the kids wanting to be undefeated, our goals are all attainable,” LePage said. “They want to be 1-0 (each week), they want to be conference champs, district champs, state champs.

“It’s all in front of us, it’s under our control.”