Here we go again...Blair Oaks and McCluer South - Berkeley. The venue has changed, much has stayed the same.
For those of you who care to remember last year's 34-10 Bulldog win, the names Tavian Willis, Tivon Thomas, Daishawn Cotton, Devon Blanchard, Kameron Cole, Antonio Williams and Averyon West ought to at least strike some recognition if not abject fear in your heart. These were the guys that ran roughshod over the Falcons in the second half of last year's game in Wardsville. Willis...a big physical quarterback threw bombs and couldn't be tackled. Thomas and Cotton churned up yards from the running back position. Blanchard and Cole were everywhere in the defensive backfield, and Williams and West were 300+ pounders with light feet and thunderous finishes. And they're all back.
Now add a new name to the mix...Daevon Trust. This guy nearly beat St. Charles West by himself over the weekend. 9 catches for 227 yards and two touchdowns...and two interceptions, including one he took back for a "Pick 6".
If you remember, the Falcons were down just 8-3 at halftime last year, using a ball control offense that at times seemed to frustrate the Bulldogs. But then Jake Van Ronzelen went down with a concussion on the second play of the second half, and things quickly went bad.
You can argue that Blair Oaks has been preparing for this game since the end of last year's game. The coaches even enrolled Nolan Hair and the receivers in a 7 on 7 tournament in the summer in St. Louis so they could experience some of the mayhem they will see Saturday afternoon. McCluer South will play man to man in the secondary, and everyone else...including the mascot...will be after #6. They'll blitz from anywhere and everywhere. They will challenge our athletes to beat their athletes and they're pretty confident about their chances. We'll see.
Last year, Berkeley lost in the semi-finals to the eventual state champions from Monett. The Cubs were every bit as big as McCluer South, which is saying a lot...and relied on a 230 pound running back to basically play keep away in a 42-7 romp. Power running attacks seem to bother the Bulldogs. But let's face it, that's not Blair Oaks' thing this year. If the Falcons move on, they will do it playing their high-octane style. And Nolan Hair will be squarely in the cross hairs.
Nolan has been beyond good since his return to the backfield. He's more accurate than before the injury. He's seeing the whole field. He's moving well, keeping his head up, and the receivers are working hard to get open. One thing's for sure, if you go out for a pass for the Falcons, you better be ready. If you're open, chances are Nolan's going to find you. That vision is what I think separates Nolan from almost any other quarterback in the high school ranks. It's very rare to find a kid who can read progressions...much less a junior in high school in the middle of Missouri.
Nolan reminds me a lot of former Montgomery County quarterback Eric Czarniewski. Short in stature with a big arm and good mobility. Czarniewski played in a much different offense...a complete jail break with five wide on every down...no huddle...no punts (except when they played Blair Oaks) and no defense. Czarniewski turned into kind of a mad bomber at the end of his career, throwing at times, more than 60 times a game. He then went on to Central Missouri State where he set all kinds of records. Nolan has at least a chance to have that kind of thing happen to him. The records I mean...not the 60 passes a game.
Back to Saturday's game. It will be cool (if not cold), it will be windy, and the little yellow hankies will be flying. That's always the way it is in St. Louis at this time of the year. Let's hope we don't relive the nightmare that was the John Burroughs robbery...I mean game. The Falcons will face adversity for sure. We'll see how much they can handle.