They knew that the Bombers liked to air it out while mixing in some running plays.
But knowing what to do and executing it are two different things as the No. 2 ranked Bombers remained undefeated this season, defeating Charleston 42-22.
John Burroughs (11-0), led by senior quarterback sensation A.J. Van Slyke, were unstoppable in nearly every phase on offense. They piled up 372 yards, virtually moving the ball at will through the air.
Charleston ends its season at 9-3.
"They're a special team, they can throw the football with the best of them," said Charleston head coach Brent Anderson. "The Van Slyke kid is as talented a quarterback as we'll see, and for that matter, probably in the state. He is so accurate, even when he's getting hit. We wanted to put some pressure on him and hit him, and we did that, but he still made throws."
Van Slyke, the son of former Major League All-Star Andy Van Slyke, used pinpoint accurate throws with deceptive play-action fakes to pass for 256 yards on 11-of-17 completions with four touchdowns.
"I was very happy with the way our offense worked," said Burroughs head coach Jim Lemen. "Van Slyke did a great job of audibling, he did a great job throwing the ball under pressure, he did a great job of faking the run and coming up and still throwing it. He played a great game."
Charleston had its own success in moving the football, but costly penalties and fumbles ruined most drives.
"We had crucial penalties at crucial times and tonight it bit us in the butt a little bit," said Anderson. "The fumbles really hurt us. I'm proud of my kids, they played hard, but we ran into a good football team. They came down here and outplayed us. You've just got to tip your hat to them."
Charleston was able to rack up 254 yards rushing. Tailback Jordy Mixon ran for a team-high 119 yards on 17 carries, but Lemen said he was most concerned with quarterback Dontay Clark, who rushed for 79 yards on 11 carries with a pair of TD runs.
"No. 21 (Clark) was handful for our defense," said Lemen. "He's super-quick. We stopped him a lot of times and then all of a sudden, boom, he'd break out, scramble all over the place, and then score. They were a scary team because of their speed."
But that speed wasn't enough to overcome Burroughs' precision.
Burroughs got things going with a six-play, 50-yard drive capped by a 5-yard run by A.J. Eades with 4:16 left in the first quarter.
Curran Clark, who nailed all six extra points, provided the PAT to make it 7-0.
The Bombers didn't panic after Charleston punted the ball to their own 3-yard line. Four plays later, Van Slyke hit tight end Bob Miltenberger for an 84-yard touchdown to make it 14-0 at the 11:08 mark of the second quarter.
Charleston answered on the ensuing drive.
Clark returned the kick 46 yards to the Bomber 48. The Bluejays used seven plays capped by Clark's 9-yard option keeper for the score. The kicked failed, leaving the score at 14-6 with 7:36 left in the half.
Once again Van Slyke wasted little time, directing another scoring drive with a 27-yard TD pass to Ben Kline with 3:26 left in the half to make it 21-6.
Charleston was able to reach the Bomber 24-yard line with 34 seconds left but a fumbled quarterback-center exchange turned the ball over.
And with the turnover, along went Charleston's momentum.
In the second half, Burroughs' Adrian McDaniel received the kickoff and fumbled, but he was ruled down on the play.
"That was a big play -- they called him down and he wasn't anywhere near down," said Anderson. "I'm not saying (the score) would've been different, but that was a big turn in the game."
Burroughs retained possession and promptly marched 60 yards in six plays. Van Slyke found McDaniel for a 5-yard TD reception to make it 28-6 with 9:36 left in the third quarter.
Miltenberger caught a 23-yard TD pass later in the quarter to extend the lead to 35-6 entering the fourth quarter.
The Bluejays were able to add a couple of scores late in the contest, one on a scintillating 24-yard scramble by Clark, the other on a 10-yard run by Mixon.
Eades scored on a 42-yard run in the fourth quarter for the final margin. He finished with a game-high 121 yards on 18 carries.
Burroughs ran out of the shotgun formation nearly the entire game, but Anderson wasn't surprised at the Bombers' success on the ground.
"They're a great spread football team, but they like to run it," said Anderson. "Their best player outside of Van Slyke is their tailback Eades. We went into this game trying to shut him down. Eades is such a good running back, he's so slick, he's so hard to tackle. We didn't do a very good job of wrapping up on him. We wanted to make them throw, but we had some breakdowns in the secondary and some blown assignments. When you have blown assignments against a team like this, they'll make you pay."
Burroughs advances to the 2A state semifinals where they will host No. 3 ranked Monroe City on Saturday.
Lemen, who coached Burroughs in 1996 and 1997 when Charleston defeated them in the regular season, showed gratitude towards the Bluejay school and community.
"Every time we've been here, all of our associations with Charleston have been first class," said Lemen. "They made us feel very welcome and comfortable. And yet at the same time, it was a very competitive game and probably one of the hardest hitting games we've played all year."
The Bluejays finished the season with its best record since 1996, but reaching the state quarterfinals ranks as the season's highlight for Anderson.
"I think you're always happy when you make the playoffs, but I'm disappointed for my kids," he said. "They put so much hard work into this thing and we really thought we could take it to the next step. This is a special group. We really felt like this may be the group that could go. There are some special players that will be very hard to replace."
The Bluejays had three 1,000-yard rushers this season in Mixon, Clark and junior Orrice Stanback, who finished the game with 75 yards on 17 carries.
Charleston will lose seven seniors to graduation.