It’s safe to say that the Boonville Pirates football team will face its toughest task of the season Friday night against the No. 1 ranked Blair Oaks Falcons.
While both teams enter the game at 2-0 overall, the Falcons probably had the tougher road after beating Maryville 23-14 in the season opener and Oak Grove last week 44-21. As for the Pirates, they won on the road in both games with a strong showing against Pleasant Hill 19-14 and a come from behind victory in Week 2 against Holden 33-13.
1. Can anybody stop the Falcons’ offense?
If you talk to Boonville Pirates football coach Greg Hough, the answer is no. But after losing three all-state players from last year’s state championship team in Class 2, the Falcons may not be as quick as in 2018 but the offense is still pretty good.
“The biggest thing about them is that they always put the defense in a bad situation,” Hough said. “They are truly running a RPO system, where their kids 100 percent get it. They look to see what the defense gives them and they don’t put their people in bad situations. You can still make mistakes in a system like that, especially when your starting quarterback is a 14-year-old freshman. However, he is still really, really good. He is probably one of the best players as a freshman this year and he is only going to get better with every single game."
That freshman is Dylan Hair, who is the brother of last year’s starting QB Nolan Hair-who just so happened to throw for 40-plus touchdowns and no interceptions to lead Blair Oaks to a state title. The younger Hair isn’t bad, either. After two games, the freshman gunslinger has completed 23 of 37 passes for 333 yards and  three touchdowns.
Senior running back Riley Lentz is also worth mentioning. Closing in on 2,000 yards in his career, Lentz currently has 29 carries for 153 yards and one score for an average of 5.2 yards per carry.
“We have to keep their QB in the pocket,” Hough said. “He is a kid that wants to get out of the pocket and when he gets out of the pocket, he is one of the best athletes on the field.
2. Protection is No. 1.
If the Pirates are going to have success against Blair Oaks stout defense, which has given up 17.5 points in two games, they will have to do it with quick passes.
While averaging 26 ppg through the first-two games, the Pirates are also putting up over 300 yards in total offense.
Hough, however, said protection is key. “We have to protect the football and when we have the football we need to put together drives,” Hough said. “Our athletes are going to have to make plays. They are going to attack and they are not going to slow down, so we have to make big plays.
3. Three players have to have big games against the Falcons
First and foremost, senior quarterback Nick Ferrari has to be the leader of the offense for Boonville. After two games, Ferrari has completed 18 of 23 passes for 197 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. That has to continue. Second, senior running back Avian Thomas has to continue to average 5.8 yards per carry. In two games, Thomas has 44 carries for 253 yards. Lastly, senior receiver Tramell Coleman has to be the go-to player for Ferrari. So far in two games, Coleman is second in receiving yards behind tight end Josh Polk with eight receptions for 43 yards and one score.
4. So how good is Blair Oaks’ defense?
Considering who they have played the first-two games of the season, the Falcons defense is still pretty good. Hough said the biggest thing you see with Blair Oaks is how aggressive they are to the football. “We try to preach 11 hats to the football,” Hough said. Blair Oaks does it. It’s probably going to be the best defense we have seen all year. They eliminate everybody’s run game. Offensively we just have to make plays. We can’t make mistakes by turning the ball over and doing things like we did against Holden.”
Boonville trailed Holden 13-0 at one point in the first half before rallying back with 33 unanswered points.
5. Big game for both teams in the Tri-County Conference
This game is as big as it gets in the conference. Don’t let anybody fool you, the winner of this game more than likely wins the conference. But like Hough said, until somebody knocks the Falcons off their throne-they are still king.
After finishing 15-0 last year, the Falcons have now won 17 straight games. Their last loss came on November 18, 2017 against Maryville 49-20.
Blair Oaks may not be as dynamic as last year-and their may be some holes in the armor-but the Falcons are still good.
As Hough said, Blair Oaks’ 2-0 is better than Boonville’s 2-0.
“Blair Oaks is who they are,” Hough said. “Until somebody beats them, they are the best in small class football in the state.”
If the Falcons have a weakness, it’s probably in their kicking game. Hough said so far this season they have kicked several balls out of bounds. As for the punting game, Hough said Blair Oaks hasn’t had to punt the ball much this season.