OSAGE BEACH -- Eli Luckett had been waiting for a game like this for nearly two years.
Luckett transferred to Blair Oaks prior to the 2022 season after playing at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Md. However, before last season even began, Luckett tore his ACL during the preseason Jamboree, postponing his Falcon debut until 2023.
On Friday night, Luckett posted his first 100-yard rushing performance in a Blair Oaks uniform, carrying the ball 14 times for 106 yards and two touchdowns in the Falcons’ 56-14 Tri-County Conference victory against School of the Osage.
“I’ve missed it so much, being on the field and the energy,” Luckett said.
Luckett’s first carry of the game went for 35 yards, powering the Falcons to a touchdown on their opening possession.
“That play excited me,” Luckett said. “I know how to read the defense, I knew that they were crashing all in.”
Luckett had 83 yards rushing by halftime, scoring touchdowns in the second quarter on runs of 10 and 15 yards.
“When he gets his shoulders square, he’s awful hard to bring down,” Blair Oaks coach Ted LePage said. “He’s able to bounce and move. We really like a lot of the things he does, and I think he’s going to continue to get better and better.”
Luckett surpassed the 100-yard mark early in the fourth quarter on his final carry.
“I didn’t even realize that,” Luckett said. “That feels good, for sure.”
Luckett’s rushing production has improved each game. He had just 13 yards rushing in the season opener against Maryville, but then he led the Falcons with 63 rushing yards in Week 2 against Lutheran North.
Thing is, Luckett wasn’t the only offensive player to have a big game Friday.
Hayden Lackman was second in rushing with 72 yards on 10 attempts. Lackman became the Falcons’ starting running back last season following Luckett’s injury. Now the two are starting together this season.
“This year, the workload is kind of even,” Luckett said. “We’ve got a good running back room.”
Blair Oaks was leading Osage 20-14 late in the first half. Facing fourth-and-goal, quarterback Tyler Bax zipped an 11-yard touchdown pass to Lackman just across the goal line with :15.3 left in the half, putting the Falcons ahead 28-14 at intermission.
“That was a huge statement for them,” LePage said. “It was a heck of a throw, but an even better catch, because he got hit. Last week, we didn’t make the contested catches, and that was a contested catch.”
Lackman made his biggest impression in the receiving game against Osage, hauling in five catches for a career-high 111 yards.
“We’ve been moving him around in sets, and we’re going to continue to do that, because he’s a matchup nightmare,” LePage said. “When you put him in space, he’s so big and long, he can out-contest the defensive back.”
After regaining a two-possession lead, the Falcons made halftime adjustments that led them to outscore the Indians 28-0 in the second half.
“We were running an option to the weak side,” LePage said. “We adjusted and ran the option to the strong side. We had to change our blocking scheme a little bit.”
The result was a 22-yard run by Lackman on a pitch to the left on the first play of the third quarter.
However, the running game wasn’t the only halftime adjustment the Falcons made.
“Our receivers told us there were some things in the passing game that we thought would work better, and that’s when we started running those little switch routes,” LePage said.
Five plays later, Bax completed a 26-yard touchdown pass to Lackman, who caught the ball near the 10-yard line and juked past his defender and scurried toward the end zone.
It was the first of three passing touchdowns in the second half for Bax. He also connected with Nick Closser in the back corner of the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown, then threw a short pass to Warren Davis, who made it into the end zone for a 7-yard score to extend the lead to 49-14.
“We came out with more energy after halftime,” Luckett said.
Bax was the third Falcons to rush for more than 50 yards Friday, ending the game with 11 carries for 63 yards. Jace Rackers carried the ball three time in the fourth quarter for 40 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown run.
“We all just want to make plays and we’re all going to fly around together,” Luckett said.
The Indians scored on a 1-yard keeper by Maverick Trusty and a 36-yard pass from Trusty to Issac Stark in the first half.
LePage said Osage had some misdirection plays the Falcons hadn’t seen previously on film.
“Last week, they were pretty vanilla with their offense,” he said. “They caught us with the misdirection, a very good adjustment by them.”
However, in the second half, Osage only managed one first down.
“They were just swarming to the ball,” LePage said of the Blair Oaks defense. “It seemed like we were having fun playing football.”
Adian Williams led the Osage offense with 23 carries for 152 yards. He recorded the Indians’ first down in the second half on a 56-yard carry.
“They had a nice little scheme to begin with, they got us into a little bit of an unbalanced set,” LePage said. “They pulled everything strong side, then sent him to the weak side and we missed a tackle. That was a good run for him.”
The rest of the Osage offense totaled just 80 yards.
Blair Oaks bounced back from last week’s 38-30 loss to Lutheran North. The Falcons have not lost back-to-back games since falling to Lamar in the Class 2 state title game in 2012, followed by a loss to Moberly in the 2013 season opener.
Blair Oaks has not lost back-to-back games in the same season since 2007.
“We had enthusiasm in the second half, you could feel it,” LePage said. “… In the first half, it was like, ‘Oh man, what’s going to go wrong?’ In the second half, it was, ‘How are we going to make this right?’”
Osage (0-3, 0-1 Tri-County) plays Friday at Eldon.
Blair Oaks (2-1, 1-0 Tri-County), ranked No. 1 in Class 3, hosts California at 7 p.m. Friday at the Falcon Athletic Complex. The Pintos (2-1, 0-1 Tri-County) are coming off a 27-20 overtime loss to Southern Boone.
“This is a game we look forward to every year,” LePage said. “This is a game we’re really looking forward to this year.”