By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
The Blair Oaks Falcons entered the season with high expectations.
Understandably. The Falcons boasted nine seniors and returned five starters on each side of the ball from last year’s semifinal team.
“We have a tremendous group of seniors,” Blair Oaks coach Brad Drehle said. “Most of them have been starters for us for two or three years. It always takes a bit of luck to get to the state championship, but we entered camp knowing we had a capable group of kids.”
The Falcons have lived up to expectations as they enter the Missouri Class 2 state championship with a 13-1 record. Blair Oaks will face the Lamar Tigers (12-2) at 2:15 p.m. Saturday at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.
Blair Oak’s only loss this season was 31-19 to Class 3 semifinalist California, which finished its season with a 13-1 record. Since the loss, the Falcons have gone on an eight-game winning streak and have cruised through the playoffs with wins over Fr. Tolten Catholic (68-13), Montgomery County (62-14), South Callaway (49-21), Clark County (34-3) and Holden (46-32).
In the semifinal win against Holden, the Falcons were led on the ground by Derek Otto and Eli Roberts, who combined for more than 400 all-purpose yards.
Otto leads the team in rushing with 1,310 yards and 23 touchdowns on 154 carries. Roberts has rushed for 894 yards and 12 touchdowns on 96 totes.
Quarterback Daniel Castillo has been a dual threat for the Falcons, passing for 1,757 yards and 21 touchdowns, while rushing for 972 yards and 13 touchdowns.
However, Castillio has been limited somewhat as of late because of a foot injury.
“He is 70 percent but still playing,” Drehle said. “He missed the first three games of the playoffs.
“We threw the ball more early in the season. We’re limited with what we’re able to do. It has taken an element of his game away.”
When the Falcons put the ball in the air, they often look to Ashton Maasen and Otto. Maasen has 30 receptions for 523 yards and seven touchdowns, while Otto has caught 21 balls for 559 yards and six touchdowns. Joey Bernskoetter and Mikel Drehle also have provided big-play threats with 13 catches for 262 yards and 12 catches for 249 yards, respectively.
Blair Oaks boasts many offensive weapons, but the defense also has come up big in the playoffs. The Falcons have limited teams to an average of 16.6 points in the playoffs.
They used a bend but don’t break approach against Holden and its star running back Max Mickey, who rushed for an all-class record 3,373 yards on the season. Mickey had his moments, but the Falcons defense limited him to 140 yards on 27 carries.
Many of the same players from offense star on defense. Roberts leads the team with 141 tackles, while Otto isn’t far behind with 132. Otto also boasts 6.5 sacks. Jacob Koelling has posted 78 tackles and six sacks.
“The seniors have provided us good work ethic and commitment this season,” Drehle said.