Boone Central/Newman Grove grabbed an early lead and momentum Friday, while stifling an explosive Boys Town offense, and scored a 19-9 victory to advance to the Class C1 state football semifinal round.
The Cardinals cashed in two first-quarter scoring opportunities to take a 12-0 lead and used a bit of magic by quarterback Dylan Gentrup to tally a clinching touchdown in the third period.
But, mostly, Boone Central/Newman Grove’s physical, swarming defense completelt bottled up a Cowboy attack that had averaged 40 points in its 10 previous games. The Cardinals allowed the previously undefeated hosts just 113 total yards – 35 of those on the Cowboys’ lone touchdown. Boys Town averaged just 2.2 yards on its other 35 plays.
After regrouping from BC/NG’s quick start, the Cowboys’ defense posed problems for the Cardinals with its quickness. Boone Central/Newman Grove began to wear the hosts down as the second half progressed, however, and two lengthy drives – one that produced points and a second that ran out the clock – sealed the victory.
“Boys Town was mostly what we expected, but maybe even more athletic on defense than we thought,” said Cardinal Coach Mark Hudson. “They gave us some problems with their quickness up front, and our passing ‘windows’ closed very fast.
“Our defense played maybe the best game of the year. Their line was solid and their running back, bates, ran very tough and had great vision.
“Our players fought for four quarters and did a great job of executing the game plan and making plays when things didn’t go as planned,” Hudson praised. “I think our experience in tough ball games really paid off.”
The game began with Boone Central/Newman Grove gaining field advantage from a pair of punts. Gentrup pinned Boys Town at its eight-yard line with a 45-yard boot and the Cardinals regained possession at the Boys Town 30 following a Cowboy punt.
Gentrup connected with Brenden Beierman for a 20-yard gain on a fourth-and-five, and Levi Krueger bolted through a big hole on the following play for a five-yard touchdown. The PAT kick failed, giving BC/NG a 6-0 lead.
The kicking game continued to favor the Cardinals. Boone Central/Newman Grove forced another Cowboy punt and Cody Nelson rambled 54 yards with a crossfield return to the Boys Town 24-yard line. It took BC/NG just six plays to reach the endzone again, Gentrup plunging over on a one-yard sneak. A two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving the lead at 12-0.
The teams traded punts until a until a second-quarter sequence of three plays gave Boys Town new life.
Pinned at its 14-yard line by a Boys Town punt, Boone Central/Newman Grove struggled. Gentrup was sacked on second down, then the quick Cowboy defense dropped Krueger for a safety after the Card senior caught a dump-off pass.
Cowboy standout Dashawn Bates returned BC/NG’s ensuing kick 32 yards and followed that with a 35-yard touchdown bolt through the left side of the Cardinal defense. The PAT pulled Boys Town within three, 12-9.
The defenses took control of the action again for the remainder of the first half and well into the third quarter. It was Boone Central/Newman Grove that finally broke the stalemate.
The Cardinals took possession at their 47-yard line with 5:02 remaining in the third quarter and went to work behind a physical offensive line. BC/NG ground to a first down at the Boys Town four-yard line with seven runs, including gains of 10 and 12 yards by Gentrup, before the Cowboy defense bristled and forced a fourth-and-goal at the one.
The play of the game, and maybe Boone Central/Newman Grove’s play of the year, followed. Gentrup rolled to his right, and rolled, and rolled. Less than two yards from the sideline, with a pair of Cowboy defenders in his face, the Card senior lofted a pass that covered approximately 40 yards to the opposite side of the field, where two BC/NG receivers were wide open. Ethan Dozler caught the lofty aerial at the two-yard line and stepped into the end zone to stun Boys Town and fans of both teams.
The Cardinals made the resulting 19-9 lead stand up for the final score, recovering a Boys Town fumble, forcing a Cowboy punt, and running off the final 6:28 seconds of the game with an 11-play drive to the BT four-yard line.