WARDSVILLE — There is one particular area the Blair Oaks Falcons have to focus on against the Eldon Mustangs.
"You really have to concentrate on stopping the run," Blair Oaks coach Ted LePage said, as the Falcons prepare for Eldon's wing-T offense in tonight's Tri-County Conference matchup at the Falcon Athletic Complex. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
"We go back to the Maryville game in 2017, when they came here and had 350 yards rushing in the first half on 30 carries. I keep telling people just because you stop it once doesn't mean you're going to stop it again. You've got to practice, you've got to be very alert and you have to be very disciplined when trying to stop the run game."
Speaking of Maryville, until the Falcons began playing the Spoofhounds a couple seasons ago, more often than not the only time they would face the wing-T was against Eldon.
Blair Oaks (4-0) shut down Maryville's run game in the season-opening 23-14 win, forcing the Spoofhounds to pass the ball instead. Eldon has attempted just 27 passes through the first four weeks.
"The thing that's really scary about the wing-T is your kids get lulled to sleep," LePage said. " It's 4, 4, 4 and then all of a sudden it's a 25-yard run or a touchdown. If you get those big plays happening, once that momentum goes on the side of the offense in the wing-T that offense is very, very dangerous.
"You know the certain angles they're going to come at, but you've got to make a good, sure tackle and you've got to keep them to less than a 3-yard gain."
LePage said there is one thing that is certain about Eldon's wing-T offense.
"They're going to hit you right at the point of attack right behind the center," he said.Leading Eldon's offense this year is sophomore quarterback Dallas Hardy (5-foot-10, 145 pounds), who has 335 yards rushing this season with four touchdowns. Hardy had a team-high 99 yards rushing and two touchdowns last Friday in the Mustangs' 50-28 loss to Southern Boone.
Senior running back Kaden Dillon (5-11, 2-5) leads Eldon (0-4) with 472 yards rushing and five touchdowns. However, he will miss tonight's game as a result of being ejected from last Friday's contest against Southern Boone.
Filling his void will be senior Nate Wardenburg (6-2, 185) and junior Owen Levesque (5-10, 175).
"Their quarterback really does a very good job this year," LePage said. "They like to get him out on the edge. He's more of a scatback type of runner."
Eldon trailed 14-0 in the first quarter against Southern Boone, but LePage said the Mustangs used two long touchdown-scoring drives to take the lead at 16-14 in the second quarter.
"Last week, they went inside, outside, inside, outside, and they just kept doing it over and over," he said.
Leading the offensive line is senior Jonathon Schoenfeld (5-11, 225), the Mustangs' only returning all-conference player. Eldon is averaging 263.5 yards rushing per game, but is totaling just 18 points per game.
The Mustangs' defense, meanwhile, is surrendering an average of 44.5 points per contest.
LePage said Eldon has utilized a cover-4 defense with a five-man front.
"They have the outside linebackers that are skilled enough and athletic enough to where they can play either a defensive end position, or they can step back and play an outside linebacker position," he said.
However, the Blair Oaks defense is ready to anticipate a different look from Eldon.
"We will see a different defense than everything we've practiced against all week," LePage said. "It was that way against Boonville, it was that way against Oak Grove."
Dillon, who is among the area leaders in tackles this season with 48 at linebacker, will leave a big hole in the Eldon defense. He finished with 16 total tackles last Friday, including two for a loss.
The Mustangs' next leading tackler is sophomore lineman Mason Kirkweg (6-0, 175) with 23. Hardy leads the Edlon secondary with 22 tackles.
LePage expects Eldon to use its five-man front to put pressure on freshman quarterback Dylan Hair.
"They play hard," he said. "They go out and they play the game the right way."
The Blair Oaks offense had plenty of success in the run game last Friday in a 56-8 win against Versailles. The Falcons finished with 299 yards rushing, averaging 7.9 yards per carry.
"We're starting to feel ourselves on the offensive line," LePage said. "We had three new starters in there, and now they understand where we're at."
The Falcons also added Cade Stockman to the backfield at running back behind Riley Lentz. In past games, Stockman got his carries as backup quarterback behind Hair, but against Versailles, he proved to be another valuable asset in the backfield with five carries and two receptions.
"We want to run power," LePage said. "In high school football, you've got to be able to flip that switch and say, 'We're coming in here and you've got to stop us.'
"As much as we like to spread it around here and do all the fancy stuff, I still like to do that."
Eldon will have to find a way to move the ball on the ground, something the Falcons' opponents have failed to do. Blair Oaks is holding teams to less than a yard per carry at 123 attempts for 120 yards.
"The big key to us this year has been tackling," LePage said. "Our tackling is really good."
Blair Oaks limited Versailles all-state quarterback Coby Williams to 6 yards rushing last Friday, sacking him nine times.
"You've really got to tip your hat off to the front seven," LePage said. " We really attacked the football, but for the most part, we put so much pressure on him, and we did not blitz one snap.
"You're still holding your breath every time he touches (the ball), but we were able to do that and keep him inside the pocket."
Notes: Blair Oaks remains No. 1 in Class 3 in this week's Missouri Media Rankings. Southern Boone (4-0) stayed put at No. 6, while Boonville (3-1) moved up one spot to No. 8. A fourth Tri-County team, Hallsville (4-0), is receiving votes in Class 2. Blair Oaks had two 100-yard rushers last week in Hair and Lentz. It was the first time the Falcons had multiple 100-yard rushers since last year's district semifinal against Father Tolton, when Lentz had 140 yards and Braydan Pritchett had 113 yards. While the Falcons have yet to shut out an opponent this season, the defense has not allowed any points in the team's last six quarters. LePage said there are no injuries heading into tonight's game and all starters are available to play.
Related Media: Blair Oaks Football Podcast [Eldon preview, Sept. 27, 2019]