You could say November came early Friday night, because this game sure had a postseason feel.

You could also say Christmas came early ... it just took 2 1/2 hours to unwrap the present.

But what a gift-bag of goodies it was.

Instant Classic.

Playing before a passionate, standing-room sea of Blue and Green, the Blair Oaks Falcons scored a touchdown with 43 seconds left and converted the two-point conversion to startle the California Pintos 29-28 in a Central Missouri showdown at the Falcon Athletic Complex.

It was two very good teams and two very good programs ramming heads.

It did not live up to its billing.

It far-exceeded it.

"Wow! That's all I can say, wow!," Blair Oaks coach Brad Drehle said. "I thought our kids played extremely well, I couldn't be prouder of them. That's what it takes to beat a team like that, because they're a tremendous football team.

"All the kids stepped up and made plays."

This affair had more big plays than Broadway.

"You can't ask for a better high school football game than that," Pintos coach Marty Albertson said. "It was electric, both sides.

"They made a lot of good plays in the first half, then we came back in the third quarter and made a game of it. Then, they came back and got us at the end.

"It was just a great game."

Albertson was correct on all fronts. It was a great game, it was all Blair Oaks early, then all California, and in the end, just enough Blair Oaks.

The Falcons (5-1, No. 9 in Class 2, No. 3 in KRCG's Small School Power Poll) dominated the first half, outgaining the Pintos (5-1, No. 3 in Class 3, No. 1 in the Middle School Poll) by a comfortable 241-77.

While the Pintos scored on a 1-yard plunge by quarterback Jaden Barr, the Falcons countered with Jordan Hair touchdown passes of 39 yards to C.J. Closser and 15 yards to Haydn Lock, and a 25-yard fumble return for a score by Caleb Bischoff.

The game featured a series of great catches by Lock, a senior, and junior wideout Mikel Drehle, the son of the coach. On this night (the two combined for 13 catches for 214 yards), they could have caught a feather in a hurricane.

"They both made great catches, they both went up and competed for the football," Drehle said. "That's what we expect them to do."

Blair Oaks led 21-7 at the break and it could have --- probably should have --- by a wider margin. One drive ended on a fumble at the California 8, and another drive stalled on downs at the 10.

"I think our kids came out a little flat and (Blair Oaks) is quick, they're very quick," Albertson said. "They go to the ball well and they were getting off our blocks well.

"I think our kids were a little surprised by that."

But in the first six minutes of the second half, this thing flipped faster than your wife's mood.

The Pintos blitzed the Falcons with a three-touchdown flurry, as Barr scored on a 1-yard run and returned an interception 17 yards for a touchdown, before Seth Fairchild shedded a handful of tacklers on a 46-yard run.

"We had a nice 'discussion' at halftime and we got back to our game in the second half," Albertson said.

In a blink, California went from a 21-7 deficit to a 28-21 lead.

"We felt real good at that time," Albertson said.

Said Drehle: "They came out and just dominated us; they were imposing their will. They made some adjustments at halftime and they came out and made plays.

"But our kids continued to fight, they never gave up."

But they also continued to give up the football --- the Falcons had four turnovers, including a lost fumble at their own 45 with 8:53 left.

The Pintos moved it to the five and faced a 4th-and-2 with 5 minutes left.

"If we make it, Albertson said, "the game's over."

True. But Jerry Lutz didn't, as he was tripped up after a 1-yard gain.

"We felt like we could get two yards, but they made a play and we didn't," Albertson said. "We could have kicked a field goal, because we have a great field goal kicker.

"The way it turned out, we probably should have kicked it."

True again. But to that point, the Falcons had just 90 yards of total offense in the second half, and were pinned back at their 4 with 4:55 left.

"That's all you want, to have an opportunity to win at the end of the ball game," Drehle said. "We just slugged it out and we were fortunate enough to come out on top."

Then came the drive ... and the play. It was a 13-play, 96-yard drive to the end zone, capped on a play buried deep in the playbook --- the hook-and-ladder.

The play started at the California 15. Hair tossed a pass to Lock at the 10, and he pitched it back two yards to Adam Schell, who scooted down the left sideline for a touchdown with 43 seconds left.

"It was one those crazy things," Drehle said. "You don't think you're ever going to use a play like that, but we did and it worked.

"We've used it twice in the last three years (the first was also successful, coming against South Callaway in a 2011 playoff game). It's been good to us."

It was 28-27 and Drehle decided to go for two. "We had the momentum and felt like the best thing for us was to try and take care of it right there," he said.

A motion penalty pushed it back to the 8. Drehle didn't change his mind --- about going for two or what play to run.

"We ran the same play," he said. "Starting (at the 8) was actually better for us, as far as that play goes."

It worked, as Bischoff hauled in Hair's swing pass to the left and raced to the end zone, running over Cole George at the goal line in the process.



Merry Christmas in October.

"This was fun," Drehle said. "The only thing that would have made it better if it were the end of the year. It's still pretty early in the season --- it can't be culmination, it has to be the start of something.

"But for now, we'll enjoy it."