Goal Lines: Blair Oaks prepares for passing game from Eldon offense

Blair Oaks linebackers Brady Kerperin (left) and Doug Blaha (right) combine to tackle Seaman running back Jack Bloom during last Friday’s game at the Falcon Athletic Complex in Wardsville. (Garrett Bradley/News Tribune)
Blair Oaks linebackers Brady Kerperin (left) and Doug Blaha (right) combine to tackle Seaman running back Jack Bloom during last Friday’s game at the Falcon Athletic Complex in Wardsville. (Garrett Bradley/News Tribune)

WARDSVILLE -- It’s something the Blair Oaks Falcons have seen before, just not against the Eldon Mustangs.

For the fourth time in seven games, the Falcons will face a wing-T offense when they host Eldon tonight for Homecoming. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at the Falcon Athletic Complex.

Five years ago, Eldon had 46 run plays and just four pass attempts in its Tri-County Conference matchup against Blair Oaks. Through the years, the Mustangs have transformed their wing-T offense with more pass plays for a balanced effort.

That trend is similar to what the Falcons have seen from the Maryville Spoofhounds the past few years, but Blair Oaks coach Ted LePage said Eldon’s offense closely resembles a formation like what the Falcons saw in Week 2 against Lutheran North.

“They keep the wing-T principle there, but they have two receivers that are split out,” LePage said. “That’s why they’re so good at the (run-pass option).

“The wing-T is based off winning gap control, and so if they’re not winning gap control and thinking you’re putting another number in the box, it means they’ve got an advantage outside.”

Leading Eldon’s passing attack is senior quarterback Hunter Hees, who has completed 92-of-162 passes for 1,248 yards with 13 touchdowns and three interceptions.

“It begins with and ends with No. 1, Hunter Hees,” LePage said. “Boy, what a player he has been for four years. … He’s not just playing, he’s dominating.”

In last Friday’s 75-49 Homecoming loss to Southern Boone, Hees broke the Eldon school record with 408 yards passing. He completed 29-of-50 passes and threw six touchdowns.

“Last week, he took over the game against Southern Boone,” LePage said. “It was just remarkable to watch him on film.”

Hees missed last year’s game against Blair Oaks due to injury, but in 2021, he completed 10-of-28 passes for 174 yards.

Hees’ top wide receiver this season has been junior Jalen Beckmann, who has 43 catches for 604 yards and seven touchdowns.

Last week, Beckmann also broke an Eldon single-game record with 260 yards receiving. Four of his 15 catches were touchdowns.

“It seemed like he was covered, then he was catching balls and running after the catch,” LePage said. “It was a coming-out party for him.”

Beckmann is one of six Mustang players to catch a touchdown pass this season.

Eldon (2-4, 0-3 Tri-County) is close to 50/50 on its run/pass plays, with 187 run plays and 164 pass plays in six games.

“You just never know where they’re going with the ball,” LePage said. “They can hand it off and run for 10 (yards) or he can turn around, pull it out of the belly and throw it.

“The thing that is amazing to me is how efficient they are. You don’t see their offense stopped very often.”

Junior running back Andrew Beanland leads the Mustangs running attack with 80 carries for 160 yards and six touchdowns. However, he did not play last week against Southern Boone.

Junior fullback Braden Wrye led the Eldon run game with 23 carries for 55 yards against Southern Boone.

“They’re both downhill runners,” LePage said. “(Beanland) is a little bit more elusive, but (Wyre), every time you look up, he can get 4 or 5 yards.”

The Mustangs, who totaled 524 yards of offense last week, have plenty of size on their offensive line, starting with Darren Crabtree, a 5-foot-10, 300-pound junior.

“They’ve got most of their linemen back, and they’ve got some big, young men in there,” LePage said. “They’re very physical and they know the offense, inside and out.”

The Eldon offense is averaging 41 points per game, but after allowing 75 points last week, the Mustangs are giving up 35 points per game.

Eldon operates out of a 3-3 defensive front, something Blair Oaks (5-1, 3-0 Tri-County) has seen each of the past two weeks, including last Friday’s 63-28 home win against Seaman.

The Mustangs return three all-conference players on defense.

Senior defensive end Vijay Jones has 18 tackles, including 5½ tackles for loss and two sacks.

“Last year, we felt like he was one of the best defensive ends in the conference,” LePage said. “He’s very active, very fast, very efficient at getting off blocks. They usually put him on the strong side.”

Junior middle linebackers Erik Krantz has a team-high 38 tackles, including six tackles for loss and 2½ sacks.

“He doesn’t get on the outside much, but inside the tackles, you’re not going anywhere,” LePage said. “He’s a thumper; when he hits you, there’s going to be a ‘thump!’ He’s a very downhill player and more of an old-school linebacker.”

The third all-conference returner is junior safety Devin Hardy, who finished with three tackles against Southern Boone.

“He flies around,” LePage said. “... He’s long and very active in the defensive backfield.”

Wrye has 27 tackles at outside linebacker. Junior safety Evan Beanland has three interceptions and two fumble recoveries, while Beckmann has two interceptions, including one last week against the Eagles.

Eldon wasn’t the only team throwing the football last week. Southern Boone threw for 331 yards against the Mustangs and added 325 yards rushing. Brady Dapkus had six total touchdowns -- five rushing, one receiving -- for the Eagles.

“It was amazing to me how they were able to overcome such a deficit and try to get themselves back in the game,” LePage said of Eldon, which trailed 34-7 in the second quarter.

With last week’s win by at least 13 points against a Class 5A school, Blair Oaks moved into second place in the Class 3 District 4 standings with 51.22 points. The Falcons moved ahead of Centralia (6-0), which has 48.67 points.

Moberly (6-0) still holds the No. 1 position with 54.33 points.

With three weeks remaining in the regular season, the Falcons still have a chance to get the No. 1 seed in districts, but that objective is way down on the list of season goals.

“When we met with the players Monday, we said all of our goals are still in front of us,” LePage said. “We want to go 1-0 this week. The only way to be conference champs is to win this weekend. For districts, our last two opponents are both in our district.

“Everything is in our control, besides Moberly.”

Notes: For the third straight week, Blair Oaks is the unanimous No. 1 team in Class 3 in the Missouri Media Rankings. District foe Centralia is ranked No. 4, Moberly moved into the rankings at No. 9 and Southern Boone (5-1) received votes and is just outside the top 10. … Blair Oaks holds the all-time series lead against Eldon at 31-17. The Falcons have won 21 consecutive games against the Mustangs, including last year’s 76-22 win at Victor Field. … Brady Kerperin led the Blair Oaks defense with 15 tackles last week, extending his team lead to 81 tackles, while Bryson Varner and Jaxon Marshall each had seven tackles. Kerperin’s interception and Nick Closser’s fumble recovery against Seaman give the Falcons a total of 13 takeaways. … Blair Oaks offensive lineman Justin Atnip missed his third consecutive game last week with an ankle injury. LePage is hopeful Atnip will be able to play some snaps this week.