WEEK 9 PREVIEWS: Osage facing one its toughest tests in regular season finale at Blair Oaks
A win on any Friday night feels good and School of the Osage was able to get that sweet feeling back in a victory over Versailles on Friday night.
The Indians (3-5, 2-3 Tri-County Conference) had gone four straight weeks without that feeling during what was a tough month for the program and now that it is back, one of the team’s toughest tests of the season awaits Friday night in a trip to Blair Oaks (7-1, 5-0 TCC). Kickoff for the regular season finale is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The Falcons are quite used to having that feeling of victory, having won 42 consecutive games in the conference and the program had actually carried a 51-game regular season winning streak into 2020 that dated back to 2014 until unbeaten Valle Catholic (8-0) ended that stretch with a 35-28 win that remains the only loss of the season. Blair Oaks scheduled Valle Catholic after a scheduled conference game with Versailles was cancelled due to coronavirus concerns on September 25.
“They are well-coached, disciplined and a good football team,” Osage coach Devin Johnson said, describing the next opponent.
Blair Oaks played its 500th game in program history Friday night at Southern Boone and the program is 348-152 overall after coming away with a 42-21 win over the Eagles (4-3). It was a game where the Falcons made their possessions count, having the ball for just 12:40 of game time compared to the Eagles who enjoyed over 35 minutes of having the football in their hands.
Southern Boone was able to move the chains throughout the night and racked up 332 yards of offense, but four of the drives ended in a turnover on downs and another two ended with interceptions. Meanwhile, Blair Oaks accumulated 384 yards of offense and jumped out to a 21-0 lead to set the right tone.
Blair Oaks is currently averaging 49.4 points per outing and the Falcons have not scored less than 42 points in any game this season with the exception of the loss at unbeaten Valle Catholic. The defense is allowing just 13.4 points per game and the unit has given up eight points or less in five of the team’s eight games.
Returning All-State quarterback Dylan Hair racked up 329 total yards of offense last week and combined for five total touchdowns after throwing for 210 yards and three touchdown passes while galloping for another 119 yards and a pair of scores. Jake Closser had a big night for the Falcons as well, being the benefactor of those three touchdown passes as he finished the night with six receptions and 127 yards.
“It all starts with their quarterback. Their quarterback is a dominant player and is really good,” Johnson noted of Hair. “The receivers are tall and athletic and defensively, they are fast and very physical. They are able to play multiple players in different spots and they are able to handle them.”
Finding a way to slow down the connection between Hair and any of his receivers should be high on the list of priorities for an Osage defense currently allowing 44.5 points per game. The Indians can put up points, too, though, and moving the chains and maintaining possession may be the right formula against a program many teams have not been able to figure out as long as Osage’s drive end in points. Eliminating turnovers will also be a huge factor and that has been a tough part of the game for the Indians who are currently -11 for the season in that department.
Osage is currently putting up an average of 304 rushing yards, 161.1 passing yards and a total of 465.1 yards per game that has resulted in 35 points per contest.
Junior quarterback Brockton McLaughlin has led the way, competing 83 of his 118 passes for 1,170 yards, 12 touchdowns and six interceptions, and he also remains the top rusher with 73 carries for 805 yards (11 yards per carry) and 10 scores in the seven games he has played. In four of those games, he has crossed the century mark on the ground.
Osage sophomore wideout Hunter Graber continues to lead a fairly balanced receiving corps with 29 receptions for 414 yards and four touchdowns. Junior Keigan Vaughn is at 19 receptions for 347 yards and five touchdowns, senior Drew Elley has logged 20 catches for 295 yards and a pair of scores and senior Kenan Webb has also crossed the century mark with 12 receptions for 106 yards out of the backfield while fellow sophomore running back Eric Hood has totaled three catches for 79 yards of his own.
If Osage’s “Blackfoot” offensive line can generate some push in the trenches once again Friday night, Hood has been fairly good recently about taking care of the rest at the running back spot. In just four games, the sophomore has rushed 67 times for 580 yards (8.7 yards per carry) and six touchdowns and he has eclipsed 100 rushing yards in three of those games. Senior Jack Creasy has reliably totaled 65 carries for 498 yards (7.7 yards per carry) and five touchdowns and Webb has made some plays as well with 53 carries for 295 yards (5.6 yards per carry) and three touchdowns, respectively.
Osage currently sits in fourth place in its district standings with 27.5 points and the Indians are hoping to get at least one more home game depending on how this final week of the regular season shapes up. Wherever the Indians will be after Friday when the playoffs arrive, it is all about finding the right stride and playing the best football by the end of the season.
“We have to keep our heads up, keep this momentum going,” Vaughn said after Friday night’s win at Versailles. “I know we’ve won one game in the last five weeks, but we have to keep this growing.”
Blair Oaks won last season’s battle at Osage, 57-7.
The “Blackfoot” of Osage allowed the Indians to have three players cross the century mark in rushing in the game against Versailles as Creasy, Hood and McLaughlin all reached 100 yards on the ground. That may be a tough combination to stop in the games to come. Vaughn also had a big night in the passing game with six receptions for 100 yards and two touchdowns against Versailles and that kind of depth is exactly what McLaughlin needs as he surveys the field each Friday night.
It starts with the returning All-State quarterback, Hair, who is used to making plays every Friday night and he has a fairly talented and experienced receiving corps to rely upon as well with Closser being one of the team’s top passing threats. If they are in sync Friday night, it may be a rough one for the Indians.