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TIME OUT by Joe Flanagan

Card-Bluejay clash “the real thing”

81-0.
That was the combined scores of the impressive 2012 debuts by the Boone Central/Newman Grove and Pierce football teams last Friday, Pierce scoring one more point in it’s 41-0 victory at David City than the Cardinals did in their whitewash of West Point-Beemer.
What’s it mean? Who knows? It’s difficult to tell at this point just how good – or bad – David City and West Point-Beemer might be. But in terms of dress rehearsals, the Cards and Bluejays didn’t have many missteps.
Of course, we’ll find out all we need about the two Northeast Nebraska powerhouses this Friday when BC/NG travels to Pierce for a marquee Class C1 matchup.
As they say in the movies, “now the bullets fly for real!”
There are no make-or-break games this early in the season, especially with the Nebraska high school playoff system for determining class champions.
However, Cardinal Coach Arnie Johnson acknowledges that BC/NG’s next two opponents – Pierce and Norfolk Catholic – “will be valuable to us in assessing our team.”
Three teams ranked in the C1 Top 10, three conference rivals, three proud programs. All with aspirations of 2012 playoff runs.
It’s not do-or-die Friday, but it’s safe to call this an important game. A game that quickens the pulse of players, coaches and fans alike.
Make no mistake – along with the tangible aspects of this clash, there’s a lot of pride involved on both sides this week. Two schools and programs with a history of doing it right. Playing the right way. Conducting themselves the right way. Winning and losing the right way. Showing respect and earning it.
This is “the real thing.”
One thing that has always been noticeable is how much these teams mirror each other.
Yes, Johnson and the Cardinals might be more inclined to “air it out” than conservative Coach Mark Brahmer and Pierce, but all in all these are two programs that thrive on physical football.
There will be helmets crackin’ and pads poppin’ Friday night!
I’ve long been a believer that football begins up front. Great teams are nearly always built on the foundation of great offensive and defensive lines.
That’s one reason for optimism in Albion, Petersburg and Newman Grove this year. The Cards have some “hosses” in the trenches!
But, Pierce appears strong there, as well, with a returning all-state player and a second who has received preseason mention. BC/NG boasts a bevy of hefty athletes, but the Jays’ roster also lists 240, 240, 235, 220, etc., etc.
The Cards have a talented, decorated senior QB in Tanner Mazour and a swift stable of quick, elusive runners, led by senior Blake Slizoski. Big-play receiving threats, sturdy linebackers, experienced defensive secondary.
But check that mirror – you could be talking about the guys in blue. Senior Nate Meier leads the offense after scoring 12 touchdowns a year ago. Another senior, Trent Spieker, opened 2012 with a three-TD performance. Senior receivers, Meier receiving preseason all-state mention at linebacker, lettermen throughout the secondary.
Tit for tat, it seems.
What’s the key Friday? To quote a certain football coach in Lincoln – “execution.” The effort will be there by both sides, you can count on that. Success and victory likely comes to the team that executes its game, that simply performs the best.
It wouldn’t hurt for Boone Central/Newman Grove to get off to a strong start. Not to say the Cardinals aren’t capable of rallying from a deficit, but it’s certainly easier to beat a top-notch foe when you aren’t digging out of a hole.
No earth-shattering revelations or bold predictions. This is simply going to be entertaining football by two talented high school teams.
No matter who wins Friday, a long season remains. Both teams will still have their goals intact, no matter which side of the final score they fall on.
But this is why you play. This is why we watch and cheer. These are the “fun” games.
Strap it up tight, this is the real thing baby!

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