ASHLAND — The Blair Oaks defense had quite a workout Friday night.
The Falcons had forced a running clock in six of their first seven games, but that wasn't the case against the Southern Boone Eagles. As a result, the Blair Oaks first-string defense stayed on the field for the entirety of a game for just the second time this season.
And that defense was on the field for a long time. How long? Well, 35:20 of the game's 48 minutes to be precise.
Southern Boone's offense had 84 plays — 42 rushing and 42 passing — and moved the chains for 22 first downs. But the most important number for the Falcons is all that yielded just three touchdowns.
"What I liked is how we responded," Blair Oaks coach Ted LePage said after his team's 42-21 win against Southern Boone. "We had some adversity, we didn't bow to adversity. We had a couple really good stops defensively, had a couple really good drives offensively."
The Eagles had five possessions that lasted at least four minutes each. Two of those drives resulted in touchdowns, two resulted in a turnover on downs and one ended with an interception.
"We were pretty vanilla tonight," LePage said. " But we never gave up that really big play, and (Southern Boone) is a big-play team.
"They don't want to be a team that moves the ball down the field. They kept taking shots, kept taking shots, and we kept responding."
Of Southern Boone's four turnovers on downs, two occurred on their final two drives.
In addition, both of the Eagles' interceptions — one by Jake Closser and the other by Alec Wieberg — led to a pair of Falcon touchdowns.
"Our guys just kept stepping up and making plays," LePage said.
The Blair Oaks defense limited Southern Boone standout wide receiver Blake Dapkus to just two catches for 33 yards. However, the Eagles' quarterbacks were able to complete passes to six other players for 160 additional yards.
Southern Boone threw a handful of screen passes over the middle of the field during the second half, something Blair Oaks had rarely faced in its first seven games.
"It's hard to emulate at practice," LePage said. "We'll go back and watch film."
The Falcons sacked Chase Schupp twice in the fourth quarter. The first was a strip-sack by Levi Haney that thwarted a potential scoring drive for the Eagles.
"We had to make a lot of adjustments," Haney said. "They were doing a great job on the O-line blocking our blitzes."
The other sack by Wil Libbert came in the final minute to help stall Southern Boone's last drive.
Although Blair Oaks only had possession for the remaining 12:40 of game time, the Falcons outgained the Eagles 384-332.
The Falcons scored touchdowns on their first four possessions. The first touchdown was a downfield pass from Dylan Hair to Closser for a 61-yard score.
"I trust him, he trusts me," said Closser, who finished with six catches for 127 yards. "He threw it to a spot where I could go make a play on it."
Hair rushed for touchdowns of 3 and 6 yards. Sandwiched between those was a 19-yard touchdown pass Closser jumped high to catch in the back of the end zone, which extended the Falcons' lead to 21-0 midway through the second quarter.
But it was Hair's and Closser's third touchdown connection that drew the most oohs and aahs.
Hair faked a handoff and tossed the ball forward less than three feet into Closser's hands. The wide receiver then sprinted toward the right side of the field behind plenty of blocks to score on the 34-yard shovel pass.
LePage said he had seen Pulaski Academy in Arkansas run that play and added it to the Falcons' playbook.
"You have everybody packed in, and it's nothing but a counter," he said. "It's just done from a little bit of a different angle, and the quarterback actually shovels it forward so it's a pass.
"It's something we've been working on, and we thought that was a good time to call it."
Blair Oaks players have seen that play elsewhere, on their TV when they watch Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill execute that play for the Kansas City Chiefs.
"That play is called 'Tyreek,'" Closser said. " We had some good downfield blocks. We can't do that without our linemen and our receivers blocking downfield."
Hair finished the game with 329 total yards and five total touchdowns. In addition to passing 14-of-23 for 210 yards, he ran the ball 12 times for 119 yards. Half his carries went for more than 10 yards each.
Southern Boone held Jayden Purdy to 6 yards rushing in the first half, but the Blair Oaks running back found the end zone early in the fourth quarter and finished with 11 carries for 56 yards.
"They were playing a scheme to try and take away our inside run game," LePage said. "It allowed us to get on the edge a little bit, and with our speed, that's tough."
Both state-ranked teams are in Class 3 District 4. Fourth-ranked Blair Oaks (7-1, 5-0 Tri-County) is currently the No. 2 seed with 46.05 points — less than a point behind Centralia — while ninth-ranked Southern Boone (4-3, 2-1 Tri-County) is seeded fourth with 34.99 points and one week left in the regular season.
"We may have to see this team again," LePage said. "We got a lot of stuff that we still have in our arsenal."
Blair Oaks, which played its 500th game in program history Friday, will go for career win No. 349 when it hosts School of the Osage on Friday at the Falcon Athletic Complex. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
Osage (3-5, 2-3 Tri-County) snapped a four-game losing streak Friday with a 43-21 home win against Versailles.