Facing a familiar nemesis, the Boone Central/Newman Grove Cardinals were again denied the second state football championship in program history – once again by Mid-State Conference rival Norfolk Catholic, which also defeated Boone Central in the 2004 title game.
In Tuesday’s Class C1 championship contest at Lincoln’s Memorial Stadium, the Knights broke a 3-3 halftime stalemate and made history with their 24-13 victory over BC/NG, becoming the first school to win three consecutive C1 crowns.
In the end, it was almost like Norfolk Catholic (12-1) stole this one from the Cardinals.
After Boone Central/Newman Grove took its first and only lead of the game – 13-10 – in the third period, the Knights struck back to regain the advantage, then pilfered interceptions on three of BC/NG’s final four possessions to secure the title.
The loss ended an extremely successful initial cooperative campaign for Boone Central/Newman Grove. The Cardinals finish 11-2, both losses to Catholic (35-31 in season’s third game). BC/NG posted victories over four C1 Top 10 teams during the 2012 season, including a dramatic 21-14 decision over #1-rated Adams Central in the playoff semi-final.
Tuesday’s first half was dominated by defense. Norfolk Catholic struck first on Ethan Hale’s 31-yard field goal in the first period. Boone Central/Newman Grove closed the half with a clutch drive, Fabian Hohnert drilling a 27-yard field goal as time expired. The kick was made possible when officials put one second back on the clock after Cardinal QB Tanner Mazour spiked the ball.
The offenses found their groove at halftime, with the final two quarters featuring big plays by both sides.
Catholic QB Jordan Bellar got the fireworks started with a 51-yard run early in the third period that set up a five-yard TD pass to Riley Knake. Boone Central/Newman Grove answered with Blake Slizoski ripping off a 42-yard run and Tanner Mazour throwing a 42-yard strike to Derek Gentrup. Mazour’s two-yard TD sneak knotted the score at 10-10.
Hunter Henry then picked off a Knight pass to set up Hohnert’s 32-yard field goal and the Cardinals seemed to have the momentum with their first lead of the game.
Back came Catholic. Jackson Love exploded 60 yards to set up a five-yard TD run by Kyle Schaefer, putting the Knights back on top 17-13.
BC/NG challenged again as Mazour hooked up with Henry for a 51-yard gain, but Catholic’s Dylan Field intercepted a pass at the Knight 14-yard line on a play where there seemed to be some miscommunication between Mazour and his receiver.
After regaining possession, Boone Central/Newman Grove went for broke with a fake punt attempt from the Catholic 48-yard line with 8:23 remaining in the final quarter. Henry’s pass floated just beyond the outstretched arms of intended receiver Justin Rasmussen.
“We said if you thought it was wide open, if you thought they were really going to attack us, then go ahead and call it,” Cardinal Coach Arnie Johnson explained to reporters following the game. “Norfolk Catholic did a good job making it a tougher play and it had to be more of a perfect pass.”
The Knights took advantage of the field position three plays later as receiver Allen Lewis broke to the outside, turned upfield and caught a perfectly-tossed Bellar pass for a 38-yard touchdown.
With Boone Central/Newman Grove forced to press through the air with time slipping away, Bellar intercepted another Mazour pass on the ensuing Cardinal possession. BC/NG got the ball one final time with under two minutes to play, but Catholic picked off a final deflected pass to seal their championship victory.
“Our passing game did well when they didn’t know we were passing,” Johnson commented. “Just like anything, when they knew we had to pass it became more difficult.”
Mazour completed 18-of-32 aerials for 257 yards and a touchdown. Derek Gentrup led all receivers with eight catches for 118 yards. On the ground, Slizoski rushed for 72 yards (10 carries) and Mazour added 45. Justin Bounds and Kody Sock each made eight tackles for the Cardinals.
Love had a game-high 144 yards rushing (21 carries) for Norfolk Catholic, while Bellar completed 10-of-17 passes for 114 yards.
Norfolk Catholic completed a historic triple. Boone Central/Newman Grove came just short of a second Cardinal title, but fulfilled a goal.
“Last summer, I had some of the seniors say, ‘Coach, you know we’re going to play our last game in Lincoln,” Johnson remembered.
They did – completing a season to be proud of.
More details in next week’s (11-28-12) Albion News