Goal Lines: Blair Oaks faces Boonville in matchup full of offensive threats

Blair Oaks quarterback Tyler Bax looks to pass the ball during last Friday night’s game against California at the Falcon Athletic Complex in Wardsville. (Josh Cobb/News Tribune)

WARDSVILLE -- The Blair Oaks Falcons remember the past two times they visited Boonville very well.

The score was constantly changing on the scoreboard in both games in 2021. A total of 76 points were scored in the regular-season meeting, a 41-35 win for Boonville, while 102 points were compiled in Blair Oaks’ 64-38 district win seven weeks later.

Coming into tonight’s Tri-County Conference matchup at Gene Reagan Field, the Falcons (3-1, 2-0 Tri-County) and the Pirates (1-3, 0-2 Tri-County) are averaging a combined 80 points per game this season. The offenses know how to find the end zone.

“Your record says something about you, but at the same standpoint, every game it seems like they’ve had a chance, and something just hasn’t clicked for them,” Blair Oaks coach Ted LePage said of Boonville. “We’re hoping it doesn’t click this week.”

The Falcon defense will have its eye on Dakota Troost, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound senior wide receiver who is the focal point of the Pirates’ offense.

In last Friday’s 44-26 loss at Southern Boone, Troost caught six passes for 102 yards and a touchdown. He also had five carries for 36 yards.

“Dakota Troost is about as electric as anybody in the state of Missouri,” LePage said. “He can take the football from anywhere on the field and score with it.”

In four games this season, Troost had 21 catches for 311 yards and four touchdowns, along with 32 carries for 250 yards and four scores. In Boonville’s 42-20 Week 2 win against Marshall, Troost accounted for all six touchdowns: two receiving, two rushing and two passing.

“Our players are really excited about the challenge, but they also know the danger that Dakota Troost is,” LePage said. “Two years ago in the playoffs, we felt like we had a little bit of a commanding lead going into halftime. They came out, got the opening kickoff and on the first play, he took it on a jet sweep and was gone.”

Boonville junior quarterback Evan Bishop has completed 51-of-110 passes this season for 741 yards, throwing for nine touchdowns with three interceptions.

“If the receiver gets a step on us, he’ll put it on the money,” LePage said. “He can really throw the football, and the other guys can tote it after they catch it.”

The Pirates operate out of a single-back spread offense.

“It’s very similar to what they’ve done in the past,” LePage said. “The only thing they’re doing differently is the quarterback is not running the football. The last couple years, (Colby Caton) was their leading rusher.”

LePage said Boonville has also used Troost as a decoy offensively, benefiting players such as senior wide receiver Dakota Williams, who has eight catches for 268 yards and four touchdowns. Blake Griffin, a senior split back, also has 16 catches for 182 yards and two scores.

“They do a lot of screens, they’ll use him as a decoy and throw play-action,” LePage said. “It’s a really good scheme and they’ve been scoring lots of points.”

Senior running back Eli Stock had 18 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown last week against Southern Boone, giving him 181 yards rushing this season.

“(Southern Boone) really emptied the box and was trying to take away Boonville’s throwing game,” LePage said. “Boonville said, ‘All right, we’ll take it.’”

Leading Boonville’s offensive line is sophomore left tackle Braylon Ellison (6-4, 265), whose older brother, Tyson, is a linebacker for Missouri. LePage said the younger Ellison is “probably going to get an offer from everybody in the country.”

“He does everything right, you don’t see him out of position,” LePage said. “You’re not going to move him, you know that, and he’s very accurate on his hand placement.”

Ellison is one of four starters returning on the offensive line, joined by Drake Cottrell (5-9, 170), Jake Pickens (5-11, 180) and Rylee West (5-10, 255).

Ellison also has played defensive tackle for the Pirates, who have used both a three-man and a four-man front this season.

“We anticipate seeing him a lot Friday night,” LePage said.

Senior middle linebacker Abram Taylor leads the Pirates with 38 tackles this season, including a team-high 11 tackles against Southern Boone.

“He runs downhill and he’s all over the place,” LePage said. “He just looks active, and when we play Boonville, we always know there’s going to be a linebacker that’s just a hard-nosed guy.”

Boonville returns eight starters on defense this season. Senior linebacker Rhodes Leonard, junior linebacker Jacob White and junior cornerback Cooper Pfeiffer are tied for second on the defense with 25 tackles each.

“They look good on film,” LePage said. “They get three-and-outs. It just seems like one thing has snake-bit them every once in a while in each game.”

Senior kicker Ross Brackman is the lone returning all-conference player for Boonville.

Blair Oaks is coming off a 69-0 rout against California last Friday. Nine players scored a touchdown for the Falcons.

“When our younger players went in, they were executing at the level they needed to,” LePage said.

Quarterback Tyler Bax also had his most efficient passing performance of the season, completing 12-of-17 passes for 229 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

“He was 70-percent passing last game and we had two drops,” LePage said. “We feel like we can do better.”

Leading the Falcon wide receivers are Hayden Lackman (246 yards), Nick Closser (230 yards) and Joey Wilde (211 yards).

“He’s seeing the whole field now,” LePage said of Bax. “Against Maryville, he saw one receiver and one receiver only. Now he’s starting to open up in our passing game, which has definitely helped our running game.”

Notes: Blair Oaks is back to being the unanimous No. 1 team in Class 3 in this week’s Missouri Media Rankings. St. Pius X: Kansas City, which had received two first-place votes in each of the past two weeks, lost 46-42 last Friday at Maryville. Seneca (4-0) moved up to No. 2, followed by Maryville (3-1) at No. 3 and St. Pius X (3-1) at No. 4. … Brady Kerperin led the Blair Oaks defense with 10 tackles against California, giving him a team-high 54 total tackles. Bryson Varner, who is tied for second with 22 tackles this season, finished with seven tackles last week. … The Falcons, who were minus-1 in turnover margin through two weeks, are now at plus-3, recording four takeaways against the Pintos. … Blair Oaks offensive lineman Justin Atnip missed last week’s game with an ankle injury and will not start again tonight. “He’ll probably dress, he might be an emergency-type guy, but I don’t anticipate him playing,” LePage said. … Blair Oaks safety Jake Hagner will be unavailable to play tonight. LePage said Austin Nilges will start in his place.