Goal Lines: Blair Oaks hosts Seaman, Kan., in rare midseason meeting

Blair Oaks defensive linemen Jaxon Marshall (left) and Ayden Luckett take a knee between plays during last Friday’s game against Boonville at Gene Reagan Field in Boonville. (Greg Jackson/News Tribune)

WARDSVILLE -- The Blair Oaks Falcons will be taking a rare midseason break from Tri-County Conference play.

And for just the third time in the program’s 48 seasons, Blair Oaks will play an out-of-state program.

The Falcons welcome the Seaman Vikings, a Class 5A school from Topeka, Kan., tonight to the Falcon Athletic Complex. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

When the Versailles Tigers announced this past offseason they were leaving the Tri-County for the Ozark Highlands Conference, that left an open spot in Week 6 on the Falcons’ 2023 football schedule.

Blair Oaks coach Ted LePage said that’s when athletic director Clay Crouch began seeking a team to fill that slot.

“He sent something out and we got no responses,” LePage said. “Then we got a response from Topeka Seaman. Within about an 8-hour period, we got a notice from Quincy Notre Dame.”

Seaman offered to make the trip to Wardsville, so Blair Oaks chose to play the Vikings.

“I said, ‘All right, done deal,’” LePage added.

The other out-of-state football team Blair Oaks has played is Chapman, Kan., a team Blair Oaks played in LePage’s first head-coaching stint with the Falcons.

The two teams met at Excelsior Springs for neutral-site games. Blair Oaks won both contests: 43-7 in 2004 and 35-0 in 2005.

“We had to play them on a Tuesday night, which was kind of peculiar,” LePage said. “… I remember them being hard-nosed, a very aggressive-type game. When we played Chapman, we were more of a downhill team, probably similar to what we are now. We were going to bring it right at you. They were a wing-T team that was going to bring it right at you, they were very Maryville-esque.”

Seaman (2-2) began the season with a 76-6 win against Topeka-West, then beat Kansas City-Turner 59-6. The Vikings then lost 33-30 in overtime to Tecumseh-Shawnee Heights and fell 28-21 last Friday to Lansing, all Class 5A programs.

“They could be 4-0 just as easily as they can be 2-2,” LePage said. “The two games they’ve lost were in the last couple of seconds, one in overtime and one on the last series.”

According to the Kansas State High School Activities Association, Seaman has an enrollment of 1,156 students and is the seventh-largest football school in Class 5A.

“Being a larger school, getting the (bonus) points which helps us in our playoff rankings system, it’s a win-win for us,” LePage said. “We get to play against a really fine football team, and they’re also larger, so we get the (bonus) points that come along with it.”

Blair Oaks enters the game with a 4-1 record, coming off a 56-27 road win last Friday at Boonville to remain unbeaten in conference play at 3-0. All eight touchdowns were rushing scores for the Falcons, who had 428 yards and 43 carries.

“Our offensive line play was really at a high level,” LePage said, “especially since we had four underclassmen playing on the O-line.”

Boonville wide receiver Dakota Troost had nine catches for 223 yards and three touchdowns. Tonight, Blair Oaks will face another team with a standout wide receiver.

Leading the Seaman offense is senior wide receiver Callen Barta, who during the summer committed to play football next year at Nebraska.

“He’s so effortless,” LePage said. “The Troost kid, he was more of a true scat back. If you get the ball in his hands, he can make four or five people miss.

“This guys runs past you and catches the ball and continues to run, or he’ll go up and high-point a ball.”

Barta has 22 catches for 452 yards and eight touchdowns. He has a touchdown reception in every game and finished with 150 yards receiving against Turner and 175 yards against Shawnee Heights.

“He doesn’t find ways to get open, he is open,” LePage said with a laugh.

Working with the defensive secondary has been a priority this week in practice.

“They’ll throw it up and he’ll go up and above the other (defensive backs),” LePage said. “That’s what we talked to our DBs about this week, try not to jump with him, just try to position yourself and punch through the ball when he’s coming down.”

Throwing the ball to Barta is junior quarterback Max Huston, who is 73-of-117 passing for 1,139 yards. He has thrown 17 touchdown passes without an interception.

“They let him sit back and put him in the dropback, but they also put him on the roll,” LePage said. “In the roll package is where he’s really dangerous. He’s able to use his feet, but he always maintains the ability to throw the ball down the field.”

Last week against Lansing, Huston has 106 yards rushing and a touchdown. LePage compared Huston to Blair Oaks quarterback Tyler Bax, saying one week he can beat teams passing the ball and the next week he can beat teams carrying the ball.

“Tyler Bax, one week he carries the ball five times, last week he carried it 18 (times),” LePage said. “When you have an option there, the defense can dictate who carries the ball.”

Senior running back Jack Bloom leads the Vikings with 61 carries for 297 yards and five touchdowns.

LePage also noted sophomore Noah Kobuszewski, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound tight end, is a top target for Huston. Kobuszewski had 18 catches for 204 yards.

“He’s very dynamic in what he does and they’ll also throw the ball to him,” LePage said.

Seaman is averaging 46.5 points per game and allowing an average of 18.3. Blair Oaks is scoring 50.4 points per game and giving up 18.6 points on average.

For the third straight week, Blair Oaks is expecting to face a 3-3 defense when it lines up against Seaman.

Junior Hayden Cummings, a middle linebacker, leads the Vikings with 36 total tackles this season.

“Their middle linebacker is a downhill player, very good,” LePage said.

On the defensive line, senior nose guard Aden Atkins has a team-high five tackles for loss, followed by junior defensive tackles Kaden Jordan with 3½ tackles for loss. Atkins and Jordan have 21 and 15 tackles, respectively.

Barta is one of two Seaman players who start both ways, lining up at free safety.

“Barta may be a better defensive back than a receiver,” LePage said. “He shuts down one side of the field.”

Six players have an interception this season for the Vikings. Junior cornerback Anthony Hurla has two picks.

“They play a little loose Cover-1,” LePage said. “They do a great job of sitting, reading and breaking on the ball.”

Seaman has led at halftime in all four games, outscoring its opponents 141-25 in the first half.

“This is a game we just have to play well for all four quarters,” LePage said.

Notes: Blair Oaks remained No. 1 in Class 3 in this week’s Missouri Media Rankings, receiving all nine first-place votes. The Falcons are one of four District 4 teams mentioned in the Class 3 rankings. Centralia (5-0) is tied for No. 4 with St. Pius X: Kansas City, while Moberly (5-0) and Hallsville (4-1) are both just outside the top 10 and receiving votes. … The Missouri high school football season started Aug. 25, while Kansas began its football season Sept. 1, which is why the Vikings have played one game less than the Falcons. … Linebacker Brady Kerperin led Blair Oaks with 12 total tackles last week against Boonville, increasing his team lead to 66 tackles in five games. Lineman Jaxon Marshall was next with eight tackles, Bryson Varner recovered a fumble for the game’s only takeaway and Sam Closser had two pass breakups. … The Falcons are hopeful to get senior Justin Atnip back on the offensive line after he missed the past two games with an ankle injury. “We may give him some snaps this week,” LePage said.