A quick glance at statistics would lead many to believe O’Neill got the upper hand in the its district football match-up with Boone Central Friday night.
Although the host Eagles had double the rushing yardage and held a 271-166 edge in total yards, Boone Central used a 3-0 advantage in turnovers and made just enough big plays to score an important 18-14 victory.
Boone Central trailed 14-0 at halftime after gaining just five first downs through two quarters, but rallied behind a key fumble recovery at the start of the second half and several long punt returns.
The win keeps the Cardinals (4-3, 2-1) in second place in the C1-8 District and 15th in Class C1 NSAA power points used to determine state playoff brackets.
“It did not look very good at halftime, but we felt we were very capable of coming back,” commented Card Coach Arnie Johnson. “We took advantage of some turnovers and our punt return became a real weapon in the second half.
“Our defense had a much better half and the kids kept playing hard. I don’t think we played our best ball, but it was nice to be able to win nonetheless.”
O’Neill controlled action for much of the first half Friday to build a 14-point lead.
Boone Central got back in the game immediately in the second half. Logan Frey recovered an Eagle fumble on the opening kickoff of the third period and the Cardinals completed their own 11-yard TD drive with Mazour’s eight-yard scoring pass to Howell. The PAT kick failed.
Defenses took control again as the teams combined for four straight punts. On the fifth consecutive punt, Boone Central made its second big play of the contest as Tanner Mazour bolted 60 yards on the return to score with 11:03 remaining in the fourth quarter. Boone Central’s two-point conversion attempt failed.
O’Neill gained one first down before stalling and Boone Central again used the punt return to great advantge, Blake Slizoski’s 35-yard dash positioning the Cardinals at the Eagle 48.
Using a 15-yard personal foul penalty on O’Neill to kick-start the drive, the Cardinals marched to paydirt in nine plays, Mazour hitting Howell with a nine-yard TD strike. The two-point try again failed, leaving Boone Central with a four-point lead with 3:40 to play.
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