WEEK 6 PREVIEWS: Eldon facing tough test in showdown with Blair Oaks for Homecoming
Any team is looking to make sure it takes care of business on the gridiron during Homecoming week.
Eldon (1-3, 0-2 Tri-County Conference) may be facing one of its toughest tests of the season for its Homecoming Friday night when Blair Oaks (4-1, 2-0 TCC) makes the trip to Victor Field for kickoff at 7 p.m.
Blair Oaks was originally scheduled to host Versailles in conference action last week and the Falcons just saw their regular season 51-game winning streak end in a 35-28 loss at unbeaten Valle Catholic after the Tigers cancelled their matchup due to coronavirus concerns. The defeat at the hands of the 15-time state champions in Ste. Genevieve was the first time Blair Oaks lost a game in the regular season since 2014 and the Falcons will surely be looking to pick right up where they left off unless the Mustangs have something to say about it. Blair Oaks’ 39-game winning streak in the Tri-County Conference remains very well intact.
“In our conference, every week brings a high quality opponent and this week is not any different. Blair Oaks is an extremely well-coached, talented team that plays hard,” Eldon coach Chad Hult said of Friday night’s opponent. “When a team has all of those qualities, you know they are going to put a good product on the field. Our guys are excited with it being Homecoming and the opportunity to play one of the higher-ranked teams in the state. We’re happy to have the opportunity to go out and play another week.
“We got to experience firsthand that you can’t take any week for granted this year because it is always a possibility you don’t get to have a game.”
Eldon is coming off a 54-20 loss at Southern Boone last week in what was the first game the Mustangs played in two weeks after seeing their scheduled game against Hallsville on September 18 cancelled due to coronavirus concerns. The Eagles made it a tough return for Eldon after building up a 41-0 lead by halftime.
Eldon is currently averaging 25 points per game and will be facing a Falcons defense that is allowing an average of just 11.2 points per outing. In fact, Blair Oaks allowed no more than 8 points in any of its prior four games before last week’s loss so finding a way to control the clock and make sure drives end with points on the board will be absolutely vital.
Fortunately for Eldon, the Wing-T offense can be optimal for that kind of night. Like any Friday night, it will be up to the linemen up front to determine how this one will go.
The offense that emphasizes the running game has totaled 933 rushing yards through four games, averaging 233.3 yards per game and 5.8 yards per carry. Senior running back Mason Kirkweg is currently the team’s leading rusher with 293 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 7.7 yards per rush. Sophomore back Krystopher Shepard, who led the Mustangs last week with 95 rushing yards and two scores, is not too far behind him with 250 rushing yards and five touchdowns, averaging 13.2 yards per carry. Meanwhile, senior back Owen Levesque has put up 188 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, averaging 4.9 yards per rush.
If the Mustangs feel the need to go to the air, there are a couple of options for freshman quarterback Hunter Hees who is currently 21-54 for 123 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Junior wideout Baylor Pearson remains the team’s top target with nine catches for 48 yards and Levesque has hauled in four receptions for 44 yards out of the backfield.
Eldon will also need to be sure to take care of and secure the football. Blair Oaks forced a total of seven turnovers last week against Valle Catholic in the form of four interceptions and three fumble recoveries and the Warriors actually had seven total fumbles in the game, but still found a way to win as the Falcons only capitalized on two of the miscues.
Controlling the clock and dictating the pace of the game will also be important simply for the reason of keeping the Blair Oaks offense off the field. The Falcons are currently averaging 45.8 points per game and put up no less than 49 points each week before visiting Valle Catholic where the team still finished with 308 total yards of offense. Eldon is currently allowing 39 points per outing.
Blair Oaks’ most returning experience comes from the passing game and the Mustangs secondary will need to be sharp as the defensive front tries to create some kind of pressure. Returning All-State quarterback Dylan Hair went 12-39 last week for 220 yards, two touchdowns and two picks and led the Falcons with 81 rushing yards and a score on the ground. Carson Prenger and Jake Closser were reliable targets for Hair as each receiver pulled in a touchdown reception, making some big plays in the passing game to make it an interesting finish in southeast Missouri.
Blair Oaks won last season’s matchup at home, 56-6.
In Eldon’s return from a coronavirus hiatus, Eldon could not get much going in the first half at Southern Boone. However, Shepard showed some potential of what the future could be as the sophomore led the team in rushing and found the end zone on two occasions. Kirkweg also showed some consistency with 89 yards and a score on the ground, averaging 5.2 yards per carry last week.
Hair is an All-State quarterback and he has an experienced receiving corps at his disposal. Containing the quarterback and limiting his options in the passing game will be vital for the Mustangs to slow down this high-powered attack.