Boone Central football coaches and players are breathing a bit easier this week after the Cardinals broke open a tight game Friday with a big second half performance that produced a 31-20 victory over Centennial High School at Utica.
After losing consecutive excruciating decisions to GICC and Fillmore Central by a grand total of three points, the Cardinals found themselves in another nailbiter at Friday’s intermission, leading the host Bronocs 7-6.
Boone Central exorcised some offensive demons over the final two periods, exploding for 24 points – one more than the Cards had totaled in the season’s first three games combined.
The outburst was the product of some oldtime Cardinal football – run, run and run some more. Boone Central pounded the pigskin at a fading Centennial defense time and time again in the second half, piling up 398 of its 479 total yards on the ground while averaging 6.5 yards per rush.
“It was nice to be able to pound the ball at someone,” acknowledged Card Coach Arnie Johnson. “I think this win, in this fashion, should give us some confidence.”
Boone Central got off to a blazing start, scoring on its opening possession when senior TE Kalvin Zoucha made a leaping catch of a 19-yard touchdown pass between two Bronco defenders. Bryce Morgan added the PAT kick for a 7-0 Cardinal lead four minutes into the contest.
Centennial wasted no time answering with a score of its own, smartly marching 53 yards in seven plays. Breckin Coffey capped the drive with a one-yard run. A two-point conversion attempt failed.
The remainder of the first half was a series of missed opportunities. Boone Central was turned away on its second possession when a pass off a fake punt fell incomplete and, after Zoucha intercepted a Centennial pass attempt, the Cards drove inside the Bronco 20, only to see a fourth-down pass batted down in the end zone.
BC threatened again late in the half, but lost a fumble at the Centennial six-yard line.
The hosts briefly took advantage at the beginning of the third period, as speedy split end Tyler Wullenwaber gathered in a short pass and raced 64 yards to paydirt just two plays into the second half. Bronco QB Kendall Kucera found Wullenwaber again for the two-point conversion and a 14-7 advantage.
Like a boxer surprised by a roundhouse punch, BC bounced back off the canvas and retaliated on its ensuing possession. With senior QB Ryan Shotkoski scrambling for one key third-down conversion and senior HB Dusty Dozler weaving 25 yards to the Centennial two-yard line on another third down play, the Cards fashioned a 60-yard TD drive finished by Shotkoski’s QB sneak with 7:30 remaining in the third quarter. The PAT kick was blocked, leaving Boone Central one point down.
Boone Central’s defense then forced the game’s only three-and-out series and the Card offense picked up where it left off.
Using sweeps and counters over the left side of its offensive line, Boone Central ripped off big chunks of yardage and galloped 63 yards in seven plays, senior FB Keir Dane Harner covering the final 18. Shotkoski dashed around left end to add a two-point conversion and give the Cards a 21-14 lead with 2:56 left in the period.
Wullenwaber wasted no time striking back, picking up his own bobble on the kickoff, then sprinting around, through and away from BC defenders on a 97-yard return TD that cut the margin to a single digit. Centennial again failed on a two-point conversion attempt.
A series of events early in the fourth period produced the final edge for Boone Central.
Shotkoski opened the quarter by combining with Zoucha for a second TD pass, this time from eight yards out, and Morgan’s PAT gave BC an eight-point cushion.
The Cardinals then surprised Centennial, recovering a pooch kick at the Bronco 35. Boone Central drove to the one against a tired Bronco defensive unit and appeared to score another touchdown on a fourth-down QB sneak. The play was negated by a seldom-whistled penalty (pushing the runner from behind) however, and BC settled for a 23-yard field goal by Morgan with 8:26 to play.
Three plays into its next possession, Centennial fumbled a lateral pass and Boone Central recovered at its 32-yard line.
The Cards were unable to add points, but took the clock inside five minutes with a seven-play drive before pinning the hosts deep with a punt to the Centennial 10-yard line.
The Broncos mounted a final threat, but used almost all remaining time overcoming a pair of sacks by Morgan and a tackle-for-loss by Zoucha. Kucera’s final pass to Wullenwaber came up short of a first down at the BC six and the Cards ran out the final seconds on their first 2008 win.
Complete Details in Print Edition of the Albion News.