Boone Central/Newman Grove received a stiff test from an old Mid-State Conference rival in the Class C1 state playoff semifinal game in Albion Friday night.
The Cardinals stared down that challenge and answered with the determined play that has carried them all season. The result was a 42-25 victory over Pierce that sends Boone Central/Newman Grove to its fifth C1 state championship game.
It wasn’t just a strong second half, or 48 minutes of football on a crisp late fall night. It wasn’t even the result of a grinding 12-game season. The victory was the culmination of a full year of dedication and hard work resulting from the 2016 disappointment of missing the state playoffs for the first time since 1998.
That was the message from Cardinal Coach Mark Hudson after Boone Central/Newman Grove finally overwhelmed a surging Pierce squad that had won seven of its last nine games.
“Pierce was a very formidable foe that gave us fits with its run game and played very disciplined defense,” Hudson commented. “The kids had to fight all night and stay focused on each play.
“That is what I really appreciate and will always remember about this team. They have stayed focused ever since last November when we checked in pads with a lot of disappointment and laid out a plan for ‘getting to be the team they wanted to be.’
“They have put their faith in the plan and ‘trusted the process.’ Work hard in the weight room and do your job on and off the field. That paid off in this game when we had to come back from two early deficits.
“I’m very proud of this bunch and very honored to be their coach.”
It doesn’t hurt to have one of the best – maybe the best – playmaker in Class C1 football.
Boone Central/Newman Grove quarterback Dylan Gentrup continued his superlative season Friday, bedeviling the Bluejays with 269 total yards and five touchdowns.
The performance certainly got the attention of the respective head coaches.
“We saw a lot of great quarterbacks this year – more good quarterbacks than I’ve ever seen in one year,” Pierce Coach Mark Brahmer told reporters following Friday night’s action. “Gentrup is the best quarterback, I think, in C1, and maybe one of the better ones I’ve seen in all my years.”
You don’t need to convince Hudson.
“You’ve got to let 7 be 7,” the Card Coach acknowledged. “When you’ve got the best playmaker in Class C1, it doesn’t matter what play you call, because he’s going to get it done.”
And, even with his leadership, improvisation on broken plays, three touchdown passes and two TD runs, Gentrup’s biggest play of the night was probably on defense.
With Boone Central/Newman Grove clinging to a 27-19 lead in the third quarter, Pierce had a fourth-and-goal at the Cardinal one-yard line. Bluejay standout Collin Tinker tried to sweep around right end, but Gentrup dropped him for a three-yard loss to end the threat.
Early in the fourth period, the Cardinals got a special teams play that, on top of Gentrup’s clutch tackle, turned the momentum to Boone Central/Newman Grove’s side.
With Pierce punting from its 21-yard line, Card senior Levi Krueger roared in to block the kick. Although Pierce was able to recover the ball in the end zone, the resulting safety gave Boone Central/Newman Grove a two-score lead and subsequent possession that they capitalized on by scoring a touchdown.
Following the safety, Boone Central/Newman Grove drove 36 yards in five plays, Gentrup giving the Cards a 36-19 lead with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Frey.
Gentrup intercepted a Freeman pass attempt on the following Pierce possession, then ran eight yards for Boone Central/Newman Grove’s final touchdown and a 42-19 lead with 4:37 remaining in the contest.
Further details in Print & Online editions of Albion News