Big plays. Important plays. Key plays.
Call them what you will. Tough games between two high-caliber opponents often come down to a deciding moment or two.
In Boone Central/Newman Grove’s 23-17 Class C1 state playoff victory over Norfolk Catholic in Albion Friday night, one such much-discussed play may well have been the ‘biggest’ of the contest.
It could also be called the ‘gutsiest.’
Nursing that six-point lead with 6:13 to play and directly facing a blistering north wind that affected play throughout the night, the Cardinals were confronted with a 4th-and-10 at their own 27-yard line.
Punt into the teeth of that wind when the last punt had traveled all of four yards? Run a play and risk giving Catholic the ball in prime field position?
Cardinal Coach Arnie Johnson did what he’s done for two years – turned to senior all-state QB Wyatt Mazour.
“Our special-teams coach sent the punt team out. They were in the process of going out and I was just thinking, ‘Why the heck do we punt it? Last time we punted, we punted for almost zero yards,” Johnson said after the game. “I just thought, “Put the ball in Wyatt’s hands and see what happens.”
Mazour rolled to his right, rolled some more to buy time for his receivers, then fired a dart through the wind to the waiting hands of junior Keaton Henry, who made the catch, withstood a hit from a Catholic defender attempting to jar the ball loose, and fought to midfield to complete a 23-yard gain.
From there, Boone Central/Newman Grove continued to grind its way downfield with 14 more running plays – the final seven by Mazour. The Cards converted three more short fourth-down plays and ran out the clock as Catholic expired its timeouts.
Victory – and a third straight state semi-final berth.
“Our last drive was amazing, keeping the ball away from them and gaining back the momentum they had at the time,” Johnson commented. “A lot of fans probably thought the fourth and 10 call was hard to make, but it was harder for the players to execute. For the play to work, we needed a line that would protect and give a confident quarterback time to find one of our many capable receivers.
“We have a lot of talent on the field.”
Further details in Print & Online editions of Albion News