'A playoff atmosphere'

There are several reasons why Brad Drehle does what he does.

He loves football.

He loves teaching and coaching football.

He loves helping old kids become young men. If you pay attention, you will learn.

And for games like this.

"It will be a great place to be --- for this time of year, it's going to get as close to a playoff atmosphere as you can get," said Drehle, head coach of the Blair Oaks Falcons.

"If you don't get here by 5 p.m., you're probably going to have to park in Jeff City or Taos."

The game is Blair Oaks vs. California, the place is Wardsville, as the Falcons (4-1, No. 9 in Class 2, No. 3 in KRCG's Small School Power Poll) host the Pintos (5-0, No. 3 in Class 3, No. 1 in the Middle School Poll.)

As if that weren't enough, it's Homecoming for the Falcons, and this game will likely decide the Tri-County Conference championship. It's for bragging rights.

And it comes on the heels of the Pintos' 31-19 win over the Falcons last year in California, which snapped a decade-long losing streak in the series.

"We try not to look backwards, we're trying to look at this one in front of us," Drehle said. "We're a young team that's growing up and trying to establish our own identity.

"This is a big ball game for us, because this is the first time a lot of these kids will be on the big stage. We'll see how they handle it."

Said California coach Marty Albertson: "This is going to be a good task for us. Hopefully after last year, the kids have a little confidence and know they can go there and compete."

(For much more on the Pintos, click here --{>} More on Pintos.

The Pintos have been punishing during their 5-0 start, outscoring their opponents by a staggering 221-29.

221-29! Wow.

"They're big, they're physical, they're fast, they've got depth ... they're just a very good football team with a ton of experience," Drehle said.

The Falcons opened the season 48-18 loss at Moberly. At first blush, that may seem like a bad loss, but Moberly has proven to be quite good --- the Spartans are 5-0 (they've outscored their opponents 211-51) and they're ranked No. 6 in Class 4, No. 2 in our Big School Power Poll.

"Moberly's really good and they're really experienced," Drehle said. "We kind of ran into a buzzsaw that first week.

"But since then, we've played well," Drehle said.

You could say that. During their four-game winning streak, the Falcons have outscored their opponents 202-50.

"We're proud of our kids and what they're accomplishing," Drehle said. "They're making progress and that's what we're after."

Sophomore quarterback Jordan Hair is putting up gaudy numbers for the Falcons, completing 81-of-124 passes for 1,160 yards and 17 touchdowns.

"Jordan has played really well and he handles himself really well," Drehle said. "Sometimes, you forget he's a sophomore."

Junior running back Dominic Jamerson --- with 4.5 speed in the 40 and 11.0 in the 100-meter dash --- is a game-changer. Even though he was held to just 25 yards rushing last week against Osage, he's still gained for 487 yards (10.6 avg.) and scored seven touchdowns this season.

"He's got great speed and he can score from anywhere," Drehle said. "For us, it's just a matter of getting him in space, because he can make plays when he gets his hands on the ball.

"He has the ability to change the game at any moment."

The same could be said of senior receiver Haydn Lock, who's racked up 483 receiving yards (16.1 avg.) with nine touchdowns.

Lock is just one of eight seniors on the roster. Still ...

"The seniors, my goodness, they've shown great senior leadership and have done a great job," Drehle said.

Now, the job at hand is the Pintos. On Homecoming, no less.

"We're trying keep it as low-key as we can, but with all the Homecoming stuff going on, that can be a little bit of a distraction," Drehle said. "But we're trying to keep them focused --- their job has to be taking care of the game.

"That's what Homecoming is, to honor the alumni coming back. And our job is to honor them with a win."

This looks to be two great offenses going up against two great defenses. So, will it be high scoring or low scoring?

"That's the great thing about sports, you just don't know," Drehle said. "But I do know it's going to be a lot of fun and we're looking forward to it.

"You're going to have people coming out of the woodwork for this one."

If you want, you can stay late.

But you'd better get there early.


Here's another reason to get there early: Friday night's game at Blair Oaks will feature the season's third Central Bank/KRCG Tailgate Party from 5-6:30 p.m. at the stadium. Paying fans will receive a free t-shirt, quarter-pound hot dog, Hy-Vee chips and a Coke product.

This is the seventh year for these tailgate parties. More than 40,000 shirts and too many hot dogs to count have been given away. One more tailgate is planned for this season, when the Jefferson City Jays host Rockhurst on Oct. 18.