Friday Football: Blair Oaks defense keeps Eldon out of end zone

Blair Oaks defensive lineman Jaxon Marshall (center) attempts to tackle Eldon running back Braden Wrye (left) during Friday night’s game at the Falcon Athletic Complex in Wardsville. (Ken Barnes/News Tribune)
Blair Oaks defensive lineman Jaxon Marshall (center) attempts to tackle Eldon running back Braden Wrye (left) during Friday night’s game at the Falcon Athletic Complex in Wardsville. (Ken Barnes/News Tribune)

WARDSVILLE -- The Blair Oaks Falcons have a number of goals they want to accomplish each week. One of those goals is to not allow big plays on defense.

Only giving up one big play Friday night calls for checking the box next to that item on the list of goals.

The Falcons gave up a 37-yard pass play, but it was the only play of more than 15 yards for the Eldon Mustangs. Blair Oaks only allowed Eldon to cross midfield once during its 55-0 Homecoming win at the Falcon Athletic Complex.

“In high school football, it’s hard to be consistent,” Blair Oaks coach Ted LePage said. “If we can be consistent defensively, that means the offense has to line up and they’ve got to do everything right on every play. They have to drive the field.”

Blair Oaks also gave up pass plays for 12 and 10 yards, but the Falcons only allowed 3.1 yards per play against the Mustangs. The defense recorded its second shutout of the season.

“We’re definitely happy with it,” Blair Oaks linebacker Brady Kerperin said.

Michael Rugen caught the 37-yard pass downfield from quarterback Hunter Hees late in the second quarter, advancing the ball to the Blair Oaks 30-yard line. However, Eldon only moved the ball six yards on the next four plays, resulting in a turnover on downs with :59 to go before halftime.

It was the Mustangs’ best scoring opportunity of the night.

Hees completed 16-of-29 passes for 113 yards, but the Eldon senior quarterback was constantly on the run.

“Our front four did a phenomenal job of getting to him,” LePage said.

Hees often had to scramble toward one sideline or the other. He was only sacked once -- Jace Rackers forced him out of bounds for a 5-yard loss -- but on many of his imcomplete passes, he was hurried by the Blair Oaks defense.

“Coach definitely put a big emphasis on him, because he’s a good player,” Kerperin said. “I think we did a pretty good job containing him.”

Kerperin was one of the Falcons who often chased Hees in the backfield.

“They’re not going to be able to get off as good of a ball when they know I’m coming,” Kerperin said.

Eldon was 5-of-13 on third-down attempts and finished with 10 first downs.

“We gave up a few first downs, but through the whole game, we never really gave up any big plays,” Kerperin said.

Doug Blaha and Sam Closser each had an interception for the Falcons.

“We made him throw some balls he didn’t want to throw,” LePage said. “We had a chance for four interceptions, but we ended up with two.”

Ayden Luckett added a fumble recovery, helping the Falcons to finish plus-three in turnover margin.

“If we don’t give the ball away, it’s going to be hard for anybody to keep pace with us,” LePage said. “I was pleased we didn’t have any turnovers tonight, and we didn’t even put the ball on the ground.”

Blair Oaks scored on its second offensive play of the game, a 23-yard pass from Tyler Bax to Hayden Lackman. However, the Falcons followed that with a rare three-and-out on their second drive.

“I want to be efficient,” LePage said, “… and on that series, we didn’t. We looked a little clustered.”

Blair Oaks responded with five consecutive touchdown drives to lead 41-0 at halftime.

Lackman and Bax each had touchdown runs late in the first quarter.

Early in the second quarter, Nick Closser caught a 52-yard touchdown pass from Bax, accounting for 45 of those yards after the catch. The Falcons consistently picked up extra yardage all night, whether it was yards after catch or yards after initial contact on carries.

“What they’re finding out right now is it’s fun to score touchdowns, but it’s even more fun when they can help their teammate,” LePage said. “The offensive line does a great job of blocking, but if you look on the edge, we’re starting to get those blocks that are key.”

Eli Luckett scored on touchdown runs of 11 and 63 yards in the second quarter, finishing the game with seven carries for 135 yards. He went into the end zone untouched on his second touchdown run.

“His breakaway speed is awesome,” LePage said.

Lackman added five carries for 79 yards, tacking on a 51-yard touchdown in the second half, and Bax had three carries for 53 yards, including a 38-yard keeper on the first play from scrimmage.

“Tonight, they were all getting great yardage,” LePage said.

Kerperin, last year’s Class 2 defensive player of the year, even got his chance to help the run game, scoring on a 3-yard run in the third quarter. Kerperin has been a big factor on the Blair Oaks offense when it gets inside the 5-yard line, scoring three touchdowns on four carries this season.

“I freaking love that,” Kerperin said. “I have dreams about that kind of stuff. I wish I could play (offense) a little bit more, but I have to do my job and whatever coach wants me to do.”

Eldon (2-5, 0-4 Tri-County) hosts California at 7 p.m. Friday. The Pintos (5-2, 2-2 Tri-County) won 29-6 on Saturday against Roosevelt.

Blair Oaks (6-1, 4-0 Tri-County), ranked No. 1 in Class 3, plays at 7 p.m. Friday at Hallsville (4-3, 2-2 Tri-County), which is coming off a 54-24 loss at Southern Boone.

In their last trip to Hallsville, Blair Oaks lost 56-51 in the closing seconds during the 2021 season.

“It was definitely a tough one a few years ago,” Kerperin said. “I remember that very vividly and I’m excited to get back out there.”