Goal Lines: Blair Oaks starts Tri-County schedule at Osage

Blair Oaks wide receiver Joey Wilde runs with the ball after making a catch during last Friday’s game against Lutheran North at the Falcon Athletic Complex in Wardsville. (Ken Barnes/News Tribune)

WARDSVILLE -- The School of the Osage Indians had one of the biggest in-season turnarounds in 2022.

Osage dropped its first three games of the season, allowing more than 40 points to Jefferson City, Moberly and Blair Oaks. By season’s end, the Indians were the second-best team in the Tri-County Conference and lost in the district title game to the eventual Class 3 state runner-up.

Osage, which has lost its first two games this season, wouldn’t mind seeing a repeat of last year, with one exception: Turning the tables one week earlier in tonight’s conference opener against the Blair Oaks Falcons.

“We knew they were good going into that meeting last year,” Blair Oaks coach Ted LePage said. “That’s where we’re at right now, we can’t take anything for granted. Their record does not signify an exact science of where they’re at.”

That message about a team’s record hit close to home this week for the Falcons, who suffered a 38-30 loss last week to the Lutheran North Crusaders. The loss snapped Blair Oaks’ 15-game winning streak.

“I told our players we’re 1-1,” LePage said. “But that isn’t really who we are. When you play teams that are going to be competitive with you, you have to watch the full sample size.”

Osage dropped its home opener 21-14 last Friday to the Moberly Spartans. The Indians led 14-13 at halftime and the Spartans scored the second half’s only touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

Osage drove into Moberly territory late in the game before turning the ball over on downs with 1:21 to play.

“It almost feels like a resemblance of what happened to us last week,” LePage said.

It’s the second straight season the Indians have lost a one-possession game to the Spartans. Still, LePage is impressed by what he saw last week from the Indians.

“Coach Shannon Jolley does a really good job with his team,” LePage said. “He really puts together a solid gameplan. They’re physical, they’re very fundamental.”

For the third consecutive week, the Blair Oaks defense will face a wing-T offense.

“They run their wing-T with precision,” LePage said. “It’s really exactly the way it’s supposed to be run. … We’ll get back to a more traditional wing-T.”

LePage said the Indians can operate their wing-T both under center and from the shotgun.

Junior running back Aidan Williams is the main threat in the Indians’ backfield. In a season-opening 40-3 loss to Jefferson City, Williams led Osage with 15 carries for 62 yards.

“Everybody is keying on him, but that’s one guy we really have to watch out for,” LePage said.

Leading the Osage offense is sophomore quarterback Maverick Trusty, replacing Konner Vaughn behind center.

“He’s throwing the ball very well,” LePage said. “You can see he does a little roll-out package, he seems to feel more comfortable there. But he will drop back and throw out of the wing-T set, but they like to get him on the move.”

Junior wide receiver Dayne Depee is Trusty’s top target. Depee caught three passes for 69 yards against the Jays and accounted for both touchdowns against the Spartans, catching passes for 7 and 18 yards, the latter coming against double coverage.

“He’s a really special player,” LePage said. “He’s got our attention.”

LePage said Osage operates a 3-4 defense.

“They attack so much,” he said. “They play a three-man front, but they’re bringing five guys 80 percent of the time. The other two are usually their two outside linebackers.”

One of those outside linebackers is senior John Kimrey. He had one of the Indians’ two fumble recoveries last week against Moberly.

“They’ll bring him from every angle,” LePage said. “He comes from everywhere. He’s long and athletic, he reminds me a little bit of some of our athletes.”

Landon Hall, a junior defensive end, had the other fumble recovery.

LePage noted the Osage secondary hasn’t been tested much through two games, because the Indians have faced two run-heavy offenses.

“We’ve only gotten a glimpse of it,” LePage said.

Depee will be one of the starting safeties for the Indians.

Blair Oaks committed only one turnover last week against Lutheran North, but a lost fumble inside the 10-yard line led to the Crusaders’ first touchdown.

“Turnovers happen, that’s part of the game,” LePage said. “But you can’t turn it over inside your own 20, and you can’t turn it over in the first couple drives of the game, because then you’re just fighting the whole game.

“You want to get that first score and you want to get that first stop.”

Six of the next seven weeks will be conference games for the Falcons, who have won seven Tri-County titles in the past eight seasons.

“We want to win the conference,” LePage said. “Going 1-0 is the first team goal. The second goal is to win the conference.”

And it all starts with a matchup between the two teams at the top of the Tri-County standings last season.

“What coach Jolly and School of the Osage are doing is really, really good,” LePage said. “I think they’re going to get it turned around. Let’s just not let them turn it around this week.”

Notes: Despite last week’s loss, Blair Oaks remains the No. 1 team in Class 3 in this week’s Missouri Media Rankings. The Falcons received seven of the nine first-place votes, while second-ranked St. Pius X: Kansas City garnered the remaining two first-place votes. With the win coupled by a Smithville loss, Lutheran North took over the No. 1 ranking unanimously in Class 4. … Blair Oaks leads the all-time series 32-16 against Osage, winning each of their past 12 meetings. … Blair Oaks defensive lineman Carson Luebbering will miss tonight’s game after suffering a leg injury last week against Lutheran North. Offensive lineman Kaden Schulte is still listed as out with a knee injury. Wide receiver Jett Quirouet will be active tonight after missing last week’s game due to injury. … Osage has moved up to Class 4 and is the only Tri-County school in that class. … Former South Callaway head coach Zack Hess is now the defensive coordinator at Osage. Hess finished with a 62-29 record in eight seasons at South Callaway.