WARDSVILLE — There are three teams that have yet to lose a game in Tri-County Conference play.
The Blair Oaks Falcons are one of those teams. They get to play the other two teams in the next two weeks.
First up are the Hallsville Indians, who visit the Falcon Athletic Complex for Blair Oaks' Homecoming game. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
Blair Oaks coach Ted LePage has taken notice of the Indians (4-2, 1-0 Tri-County), who are coming off a 28-26 win last Friday against Class 4 Marshall.
"Their quarterback and running back are as good as anyone we've faced, as far as running the football," he said.
LePage is referring to quarterback Tyger Cobb and running back Harrison Fowler, who lead Hallsville's option offense.
It all starts with Cobb, who has thrown for 831 yards and seven touchdowns while running for 713 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.
"Everything he does is coming downhill," LePage said. "In an option, you don't want your quarterback to think, you want your quarterback to react. He's very good at reactions. And then he can stop, cut on a dime and get going in the other direction at full speed."
LePage said Hallsville wants to run the ball, but Indians coach Justin Conyers has been successful in lulling defenses to sleep with the run game before catching them off-guard through the air.
"They throw it about 10 times a game, but he's accurate enough to make you nervous," LePage said. " This quarterback is really accurate on his deep ball. When they catch it, it's usually a home run."
A.J. Austene is Hallsville's leading wide receiver with 18 catches for 263 yards and two touchdowns.
Fowler garnered plenty of attention two weeks ago in Hallsville's 78-50 slugfest win against School of the Osage. He has rushed for 956 yards and 14 touchdowns this season, but in that game against Osage, Fowler had 415 yards rushing and seven touchdowns.
"When he got the ball, he had space to run and then he made people miss," LePage said.
Fowler highlights Hallsville's primarily one-back offense.
"Sometimes they put him as much as 8 yards from the line of scrimmage," LePage said. "They allow him to have a running start, and within that running start, sometimes before he ever gets to the line of scrimmage, he's already making another cut into another lane."
Hallsville's offense averages 304.8 yards rushing and 138.5 yards passing per game. LePage noted Hallsville offensive line coach Mike Morris — a former All-Big 12 lineman for the Missouri football team — has gotten his linemen to be successful at creating running lanes.
"They're not the huge, drive blockers they were last year," LePage said. "They're more of position blockers and let their running back and quarterback make plays."
The Indians line up in a 3-3-5 defensive formation. While opponents have averaged 26.8 points against Hallsville, LePage said it's a defense that is designed "to come up with big plays."
"That is definitely a feast-or-famine defense," he said. " They're going to get us a couple times, we're going to have negative plays.
"But the one time they don't get you, with bringing as much pressure and as much heat as they do, that's the time you feast."
Hallsville's three linemen and three linebackers are getting the job done, as they are crowded atop the team's tackling leaders.
"You've got six guys inside a small area, you have to be on landmarks to get a positive yard," LePage said.
Linebacker Trenton Hobbs leads Hallsville with 63 tackles, including four tackles for loss and three sacks, and a fumble recovery for a touchdown last month against Putnam County.
"They put him right in the middle, and their middle linebacker plays a different role in high school," LePage said. "He's 7-8 yards deep, and that allows him to come downhill very, very fast.
"They don't give him a lot of responsibility as far as matching up. When he sees the ball, he goes and gets the ball."
Alex White and Colton Hobbs also play linebacker, and are next on Hallsville's defense with 40 and 37 tackles, respectively.
DJ Larkin, who plays defensive end, has 24 tackles and two for loss to lead the front line.
When you play a 3-3-stack, you really have to take some time with your offensive line and your backs and say, 'Hey, there are going to be some situations where they send more (people) than we can block. You need to block your area and stay on it,'" LePage said.
Blair Oaks also anticipates to see other looks from Hallsville's defense.
"We expect to see something different because of the potential we have to score points, they have to do something to try and create a big play for them," LePage said. "We can't panic, we just have to do what we're going to do."
The Falcons (5-1, 3-0 Tri-County) scored plenty of points in last Friday's 69-6 win at Eldon.
"I was really excited about the way we ran our option," LePage said. "In high school football, if you can run option, you have a chance in every game."
Blair Oaks wouldn't mind if Hallsville focused solely on the Falcons' run-pass option. That's because in last year's 35-0 win in Hallsville, Jake Closser had a career night with seven catches for 337 yards and three touchdowns.
LePage is hopeful that performance is on the Indians' mind.
"If they prepare for that, then that's hopefully taking something else away from their defense," LePage said. "You can do what you want, but Jake has proven time and time again over the past two years that Jake is going to get what Jake is going to get."
Notes: Blair Oaks dropped one spot to No. 4 in Class 3 in this week's Missouri Media Rankings. That's because Lutheran North played its first game of the season Saturday, defeating Parkway West 34-6. The Crusaders went from unranked to taking the No. 1 spot in the Class 3 poll, while Valle Catholic dropped to No. 2 and Odessa to No. 3. The Falcons are still No. 2 in the Class 3 District 4 standings, trailing fifth-ranked Centralia. All six teams in the district have a .500 record or better entering Week 7. Blair Oaks owns a 9-1 record all-time against Hallsville. LePage said offensive lineman Brysan Jeffries will miss his second straight game with a broken hand, and James Thomson will again start in his place. "He had successful surgery on his hand, he's moving around and he's doing well," LePage said. "We have to wait for the swelling to go down and they'll probably cast it next week." Harrison Lear missed last week's game against Eldon due to a small tibia fracture. Zach Herigon returned as kicker, making 9-of-10 extra points last week. Herigon will continue to perform the kicking duties in Lear's absence.