Falcons bust through,
crush Crusaders to
advance to title game
Blair Oaks, Lathrop
set to do battle for
Class 2 championship
Nov. 30, 2018
COLUMBIA, Mo. --- This was the only fitting finish, really, because dreams with lousy endings are called something else.
Make no doubt, this finish was splendid. Now, the journey is done, the feat is complete, the Green Dream has come true ... and it came true with as many exclamation points as you'd like.
We'll settle for three.
And did these state champions ever do it with a bang.
In one of the most dominating performances in the 51-year history of the Show-Me Bowl, the Blair Oaks Falcons dismantled the Lathrop Mules 54-0 to win the Class 2 state championship Friday at Faurot Field.
Simply the best.
"It's been outstanding to work with these young men," said Falcons head coach Ted LePage, who won his second state championship at Blair Oaks --- the first coming in 2004 during his first stint with the Falcons --- and the school's third overall.
"I got to take over a great program, first of all, and the way these guys have accelerated all year ... we played a game for 15 straight weeks and these dudes have done everything we've asked them to do. I'm very blessed to be around these guys."
Certainly, this was a dream season, but it was also an attainable goal --- as it turned out, a very attainable goal. The last three years competing in Class 3, the Falcons fell short, losing once in the quarterfinals and twice in the semifinals.
That makes this one even sweeter, especially for the seniors.
"This feels great," said senior defensive lineman Nolan Atnip. "I did it for all these guys and the new coach --- I love you coach," he said, looking at LePage. "And I'm glad I got it for my dad (who died of cancer in 2013)."
Sometimes, sports can be about a lot more than just winning a game.
In this game, Lathrop --- which had been enjoying a dream season of its own while making the school's first appearance in the title game --- had no chance of winning.
"There's not much to say, they were a way better football team than us today," Mules head coach Chris Holt said. "We couldn't have done anything different, they were just better.
"We couldn't get anything going on offense and we certainly couldn't slow them down on defense."
There was no stopping these Falcons.
THERE ARE SOME NUMBERS that might be more impressive than 54-0.
Get this --- the top-ranked Falcons (15-0) took the opening kickoff and flashed 68 yards for a touchdown in just five plays to take a 7-0 lead. So, you might ask?
Well, those 68 yards were more than the third-ranked Mules (14-1) had THE ENTIRE GAME. When it was mercifully over, the Falcons held a hard-to-believe 532-66 in total yards
This was a state championship game, folks, not a homecoming game when you schedule a patsy.
Which side of the ball impressed LePage most? Remember, LePage might be the best offensive mind in Missouri high school football, but ...
"I would say our defense," he said. "Everybody knew about our offense coming in, but nobody gave our defense credit coming into this season or this game. To keep that team under 100 yards, that's just an amazing effort."
You'll get no argument from Lathrop senior running back Seth McKnight, who had rushed for 1,495 yards and 25 touchdowns this season. On this day? McKnight gained four yards on 11 carries.
"To be honest," McKnight said, "I've never seen a defense that fast before. They had, like, 11 of our best dudes, it was crazy."
Let's go back to the opening score.
The Falcons won the coin flip and opted not to defer to the second half, something the vast majority of teams would do.
"(Senior quarterback) Nolan (Hair) said they wanted the ball," LePage said, "because they were going to go down and score. Every week, I let the seniors pick what we're going to do (on the opening drive). I've told them that I trust them and I'll let them do what they think's right."
Right they were. On the first play, a swing pass from Hair to Pritchett turned into a 28-yard gain to the Lathrop 40.
"When I first caught it," Pritchett said, "I just wished my blockers would block for me so I could get to the outside."
They did ... and so did he.
"The adrenaline was pumping," Pritchett said, "and I just got as much as I could."
Hair picked up 31 yards with his legs on the next play, and then scored three plays later on a three-yard run just 92 seconds into the game.
After the Falcons lost a fumble at the Mules' six on their next possession, they sprinted 49 yards in three plays to make it 13-0, a drive capped on a seven-yard run by Brayden Pritchett
"When we got the stop and went up 13-0," LePage said, "I just think that took a lot of air out of them. They had a very emotional win last week, they beat a heck of a Lamar team and I think, emotionally, they were just drained at that point."
This wasn't close to a fair fight --- the Falcons rode this team like they were a herd of scrawny, rented Mules.
Thing is, they're anything but.
It was 13-0 after one quarter and the lead ballooned to 40-0 at the break thanks to:
^ Pritchett's five-yard scoring run;
^ a one-yard plunge by Hair, one play after Hair's 48-yard pass to Marcus Edler;
^ a 69-yard pass from Hair to Edler, who finished with four catches for 166 yards and two touchdowns;
^ and a four-yard run by Hair, who rushed a team-high 73 yards of the Falcons' 204 yards on the ground.
At the break, Blair Oaks --- which outscored its opponents by a silly 600-66 in the first half this season --- had outgained Lathrop by an equally silly 410-52.
410 yards ... that's an 820-yard pace. How did they do it?
"Nolan threw four incompletions," LePage said, hinting with a smile it could have been more. "But really, our offensive performance was about as good as we've had. Our guys just executed very well."
Hair was only 10-of-14 for 275 yards in the opening half, he finished 14-of-19 for 328 yards, and he finished the season with a remarkable 48 touchdown passes and ZERO interceptions.
That's so good, there's not even a touchdown to interception ratio to calculate.
"I've never seen a season like that," LePage said. "And the biggest thing that comes out of that is that he doesn't care. It's something he's going to be proud of the rest of his life, but he's (all about the team).
"And the other thing is, we've got a bunch of great receivers and a great offensive line."
With the clock running, the second half flew by (29 minutes to play 24 football minutes), with the only scores going to Riley Lentz on a one-yard run and Edler's 34-yard catch from Hair.
LePage knew Edler would be a key --- if not an easy --- target.
"When I saw they were doubling Ben and they were doubling Brayden, and they left Marcus one on one, that was a great opportunity for us," LePage said. "He's really fast and has great hands."
This game, in a word, was a big wow. This season?
What will Hair remember most about this team?
"Just how unstoppable we were ... how we could score at will," Hair said. "And our defense was so unstoppable, I mean, we had the most underrated defense. Every team that we played was always worrying about our offense, and our defense barely gave up any points."
Unstoppable offense, unstoppable defense, unstoppable team.
To put it another way, the 2018 Blair Oaks Falcons were a dream come true.
A dream come true: Falcons claim state title
A big Blair Oaks crowd was on hand to cheer the Falcons on Friday as they romped to the school's third state football championship.
One to go