WARDSVILLE — A 50-game regular-season winning streak would leave most teams overconfident. Not the Blair Oaks Falcons.
They remember their last performance against tonight's opponent all too well.
"We were a young football team going in there, and we made a lot of really bad mistakes in that game," Blair Oaks coach Ted LePage said of his team's 38-21 win last season against the Boonville Pirates in a battle of two Class 3 state-ranked opponents. "It has been excruciating for some of our players to go back and watch film of last year's game, of some of the mistakes that we made.
"On the plus side, there's the acceptance and the acknowledgment that, 'Hey, I did something wrong, I want to correct it for this year.' This is a really good football team, they're a team that's not scared of Blair Oaks. They want to come out and they want to play their best game."
Last season was Blair Oaks' first-ever road trip to Boonville. The Falcons will look to improve upon their 3-0 series lead tonight when the Pirates come to the Falcon Athletic Complex. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
"It was an awesome setting that we played in last year," LePage said. "It was really intense, it was an electric atmosphere."
Boonville graduated 18 seniors from last year's team that finished with a 7-4 record, losing to eventual state champion Odessa in the district semifinals.
But the Pirates have several key returners, along with a group of new starters that have them off to a 2-1 start this season.
"Boonville has athletes galore," LePage said. "You turn on the film and it just almost scares you to look at the athletes that they have running around."
One athlete that jumps out to LePage is D.J. Wesolak, 6-foot-5, 225-pound junior who plays both ways.
Offensively, he can run the ball and play any of the receiver positions. Defensively, he anchors the line at end. In last Friday's 20-14 loss to Southern Boone, Wesolak had four catches for 60 yards to go with five total tackles.
"He's an unbelievable football player, an unbelievable talent," LePage said of Wesolak, who has offers from Boston College, Iowa State and Kansas, and is also drawing interest from Tennessee and Missouri.
Another notable two-way player for the Pirates is Lane West, a 6-3, 200-pound senior. Although he only has three carries and three catches this season, West is one of the team's top tacklers at inside linebacker.
"They really feel like he's the key to their offense," LePage said of West. "He's an extremely hard runner, a good, shifty runner. You've got to get him before he gets going."
Boonville had an all-state running back last year in Avian Thomas, but senior Andrew Wiser (5-10, 185) had more carries against Blair Oaks than Thomas. Wiser has 227 yards rushing and five scores through three games.
The Pirates have a new quarterback with sophomore Colby Caton (5-7, 165). Although Boonville has run the ball on 65 percent of its offensive plays, Caton has thrown for 451 yards, while the team has compiled just 374 rushing yards.
"Offensively, they'll come out in 10,000 sets," LePage said. "You just never know what set they're going to be in. It's amazing to me how their football IQ is so advanced. They're able to do things out of different formations, and make everything look the same."
In addition to Wesolak, senior Charlie Bronakowski (6-6, 203) gives the Pirates another tall target in the receiving game. LePage said the Falcons have been working on defending against jump-ball passes this week in practice and making sure cornerbacks and safeties stay in coverage.
"You have to make sure you don't let anything slip behind you," LePage said, "because last year, when they did, it was a touchdown, and it really changed the momentum in the game."
Boonville returns two starting offensive linemen: seniors Gaige Offineer (6-1, 270) and Saylor Marquez (6-2, 235).
"They look like they did last year: big, physical and fire off the ball well," LePage said. "They're pulling off their guards well, and Wiser or the quarterback stay right behind them."
The Pirates are averaging 37.7 points per game, anchored by a 74-point performance in Week 2 against Holden. The defense is holding opponents to 14 points per contest.
Boonville's defense runs out of a base 4-2-5. Harper Stock (5-11, 205), a senior linebacker, leads the way with 32 tackles — five for loss — with four forced fumbles.
"They try to keep everything inside and they do that very easily," LePage said. "It's a huge task to mount any offense against this defense."
Evan Gonzalez (5-10, 200), a senior linebacker, matched Stock with 11 total tackles against Southern Boone.
"(Boonville coach Greg Hough) was excited about his linebacking corps coming into this season," LePage said. "Watching last year's film, they really came after (quarterback) Dylan (Hair) hard."
Boonville had its opportunities to start the season 3-0, but LePage said the Pirates came up empty on a few scoring chances inside the Eagles' 20-yard line.
"Sometimes in some games, things just don't go your way," LePage said. "It looked like Southern Boone was getting every break and playing to make those breaks.
"That was a really competitive game between two really good football teams."
Notes: Blair Oaks extended its regular-season win streak to 50 games last Friday with a 50-6 win at California. Through three games, the Falcons are averaging 50 points per game and allowing just 4.7. Tonight will be Boonville's first road game of the season. The Pirates won their opener 25-20 against Pleasant Hill and routed Holden 74-2 in Week 2. LePage said Blair Oaks had some "bumps and bruises" from the JV game earlier this week against California, but at the varsity level, the Falcons are healthy heading into tonight's contest. "We feel really good about where our structure is right now, as far as our starting lineup and our depth at No. 2s," LePage said.