Lutheran North holds off Blair Oaks in state-ranked clash

Hayden Lackman of Blair Oaks runs through the line during Friday night’s game against Lutheran North at the Falcon Athletic Complex in Wardsville. (Ken Barnes/News Tribune)

WARDSVILLE -- It may have been only a Week 2 matchup, but Friday night at the Falcon Athletic Complex resembled more of a state playoff game than a typical non-conference contest.

The Lutheran North Crusaders made minimal mistakes, scored the game’s first two touchdowns and kept the Blair Oaks Falcons at arm’s length the rest of the way. The Crusaders held on for a 38-30 victory, winning for the first time in four tries against the Falcons.

“You can point to a lot of things in the football game that changed momentum,” Blair Oaks coach Ted LePage said. “The biggest thing is Lutheran North didn’t beat themselves, and we beat ourselves on a couple of plays.”

The loss snapped a streak of 35 consecutive regular-season home wins for the Falcons, who last suffered a regular-season loss Sept. 12, 2014, at the Falcon Athletic Complex.

Friday’s game featured only one turnover, and it came very early.

After the Blair Oaks defense forced a three-and-out to start the contest, the Falcons fumbled a pitch on their second play on offense. Lutheran North’s Kion Gibson dove and grabbed the ball before it hit the ground at the Blair Oaks 8-yard line.

On the next play, quarterback Dakarri Hollis scored on an 8-yard keeper to give the Crusaders a 6-0 lead with 9:32 to go in the opening quarter.

“Unfortunately, we made the first mistake,” LePage said. “We turned the ball over inside our 10. Uncharacteristic.”

The Blair Oaks offense moved the ball inside the red zone on each of its next two possessions, but both drives resulted in missed field-goal attempts from 36 and 24 yards.

Following the second miss, Lutheran North moved the ball 80 yards on eight plays, capped by a 5-yard touchdown run on a direct snap to running back Jevon Blackman. He also scored the 2-point conversion, extending the Crusader lead to 14-0 with 11:01 left in the second quarter.

The Blair Oaks offense found momentum on its next drive. Tyler Bax completed a 37-yard pass to Nick Closser in double coverage, then five plays later, Eli Luckett scored on a 3-yard run. Nolan Laughlin made the first of his two extra-point attempts, making the score 14-7 with 8:58 to go in the first half.

The teams traded touchdowns in the next five minutes. Lutheran North’s Martez Stephenson scored on a 19-yard run, making a cut at the line of scrimmage and darting toward the left side of the end zone. Blair Oaks answered with a 56-yard touchdown pass from Bax to Closser.

Lutheran North punted on its next possession with 1:48 to go in the half. Blair Oaks moved the ball down to the Crusader 3-yard line, but a 24-yard field-goal attempt was blocked as time expired, leaving the Falcons down 22-14 at intermission.

Blair Oaks went three-and-out to start the second half, while Lutheran North made the score 30-14 with a 28-yard touchdown pass from Hollis to Mike Clark.

The Falcons came up empty on their next possession, but then they finished a 12-play, 66-yard drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Bax to Hayden Lackman. The two also connected on a pass for the 2-point conversion, closing the gap to 30-22 with 11:20 remaining in the game.

Lutheran North answered with a 1-yard touchdown run on another direct snap to Blackman with 7:16 to go. Blair Oaks responded with a 1-yard touchdown run by Lackman and Brady Kerperin scored the 2-point run to make it a one-possession game at 38-30 with 4:51 on the clock.

The Falcons forced a turnover on downs at the Crusader 37-yard line with 2:09 to play, needing a touchdown and a successful 2-point conversion to force overtime.

Bax got one first down by a few inches on a keeper on fourth down near midfield, but a fourth-and-10 pass to Wilde on the far sideline came up one yard short of the first-down marker at the Lutheran North 44-yard line with 1:04 to play.

The Crusaders kneeled the ball three times to run out the clock.

Bax finished the game 17-of-38 passing for 261 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 36 yards on 19 attempts.

Closser led the Falcon receivers with four catches for 107 yards. Joey Wilde had seven catches for 89 yards.

Luckett added 13 carries for 83 yards and Lackman had 84 total yards -- 47 receiving, 37 rushing.

Hollis led the Crusader offense, completing 12-of-21 passes for 231 yards. He added nine carries for 60 yards.

Stephenson paced the run game with 18 carries for 93 yards, while Trey Bass finished with four catches for 98 yards.

Lutheran North (2-0), ranked No. 2 in Class 4 in the Missouri Media Rankings, plays next Friday at Class 6 No. 4 Francis Howell (1-1), which lost 42-35 to Jackson on Friday.

Blair Oaks (1-1), ranked No. 1 in Class 3, begins Tri-County Conference play next Friday at School of the Osage (0-2), which lost 21-14 to Moberly on Friday.