Friday Football: Blair Oaks defense shuts down California

Blair Oaks defensive lineman Jaxon Marshall works his way between California offensive linemen Alexis Anguiano (left) and Owen Pringer during Friday night’s game at the Falcon Athletic Complex in Wardsville. (Josh Cobb/News Tribune)

WARDSVILLE -- The California Pintos lost yardage on their first five offensive plays.

It was truly a sign of things to come.

The Blair Oaks Falcons held the Pintos to just 36 yards of total offense and only one first down Friday night. The Blair Oaks defense shined from start to finish in a 69-0 victory against California at the Falcon Athletic Complex.

California first-year head coach Kenny Grubb was the Mexico defensive coordinator in 2021, the year the Bulldogs defeated the Falcons 49-14 in the district championship game. It may have been a different team on the field Friday, but the Falcons were expecting a similar look from California’s offense, compared to Mexico’s offense from two years ago.

“Mexico had their way with us a couple years ago,” Blair Oaks coach Ted LePage said. “Our defense really wanted to show that they had grown up. Nine guys played in that game two years ago, and I think they wanted to say, ‘We’re not the same team.’”

The Pintos finished with just 2 net yards rushing on 29 attempts. Their longest run was 5 yards.

“That’s really good by our defense,” LePage said. “We really worked hard this week on the consistency of matching up on the option.”

Ayden Bryant, the Pintos’ leading rushing threat, was limited to 3 yards on seven carries.

“I was nervous this week, because he’s just so dynamic,” LePage said. “He gets out and he’s just so explosive.

“Nick Closser probably had four or five tackles on him on the outside. He just grabbed his legs and wrapped him up.”

Brooks Volkart led California with 12 yards on four carries.

Blair Oaks moved Jaxon Marshall to the inside on the defensive line and Parker Bennett to the outside, LePage said, to set the edge and control the gaps.

“That was a good move,” LePage said. “I thought Jaxon Marshall probably played his best game to date. He really took up the double-teams.”

At times, Blair Oaks would bring its outside linebackers to the line, putting six defensive players on the line of scrimmage.

“We were just trying to force them outside so they couldn’t get back inside to the gaps,” Marshall said. “We were getting off blocks really well, not letting them get past the line of scrimmage.”

The only time California got into the Blair Oaks secondary was when Walker Friedmeyer threw a 20-yard pass to Bryant along the sideline late in the second quarter.

However, two plays later, Sam Closser intercepted a pass to keep the Pintos from crossing midfield.

Eight of California’s first 13 possessions ended with a punt. Three resulted in turnovers and two more were turnovers on downs.

Blair Oaks’ backup defense also consistently pinned California behind the line of scrimmage, helping preserve a shutout.

Freshman Parker Spencer recovered a fumble at the Pinto 4-yard line and returned it for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. He became the 11th Falcon to score a touchdown through four games.

“Our No. 2s came in, then we started subbing even more,” LePage said. “We got some young guys some valuable experience tonight. You get excited about playing football when things like that happen.”

Blair Oaks forced four turnovers in the win. Ayden Luckett and Austin Nilges also recovered fumbles.

“I feel like we’re starting to get back on track,” Marshall said. “I think our edge is back.”

The Falcon offense was equally as impressive. Eight players totaled nine touchdowns against the Pinto defense.

“Five of our (first-team) skill players scored tonight,” LePage said. “Warren Davis was the only one who didn’t, but he came up with a remarkable catch that allowed someone else to score.”

Tyler Bax had his most efficient game at quarterback, completing 12-of-17 passes for 229 yards and three touchdowns.

“They were playing a front that said, ‘You’re not going to run on us,’” LePage said. “With Tyler’s arm, we were going to take our chances.”

Hayden Lackman, Joey Wilde and Nick Closser each caught a touchdown passes. Five players recorded 40 or more yards receiving for the Falcons.

“If you’re going to take away the run, we’re not going to sit there and pound away against you,” LePage said.

Backup quarterback Wyatt Meldrum was only on the field for nine plays, but the senior led the Blair Oaks run game with five carries for 76 yards and a touchdown.

“We want to get him in every chance we get,” LePage said. “He made two dynamic runs and made a heck of a throw.”

The second-string offense scored a pair of touchdowns. In addition to Meldrum, Hank Lueckenotte also had a rushing score.

“A lot of the No. 2s are going against the No. 1s (in practice),” LePage said. “It was the first time in a while I saw our No. 2s go in and be hungry to do something.”

Brady Kerperin, Eli Luckett, Bax and Wilde also had rushing touchdowns for the Falcons.

Blair Oaks (3-1, 2-0 Tri-County Conference), No. 1 in Class 3 in the Missouri Media Rankings, plays Friday at Boonville (1-3, 0-2 Tri-County).

California (2-2, 0-2 Tri-County) plays Friday at School of the Osage (1-3, 1-1 Tri-County).