Boone Central/Newman Grove has feasted on explosive plays all season, with its wide array of game-breaking athletes.
However, on a night when the Cardinal offense misfired early, it was the defense and special teams providing the sparks to propel Boone Central/Newman Grove to a 34-7 Class C1 state playoff semi-final victory over host Kearney Catholic.
First, Travis Kennedy’s 39-yard interception return broke a 7-7 deadlock with 3:14 remaining in the first half. While that buoyed the Cardinals, Kearney Catholic still felt good about its first-half effort, trailing by just six at intermission.
Enter the Cardinal kick return unit and all-state blur Wyatt Mazour.
Mazour gathered in the second-half kickoff at the BC/NG 11-yard line, found an open lane through the middle of the field due to terrific BC/NG blocking and, with teammate Zac Glidden as an escort, flew 89 yards for a score that made it 19-7 and certainly deflated the Kearney Catholic sideline.
“The interception got us momentum. The kickoff return kept the momentum for the rest of the game,” Cardinal Coach Arnie Johnson told reporters following the contest. “When you get two touchdowns ahead and it’s kind of a cold night, your confidence builds.”
Yes, it was a cold night, with temperatures hovering near single digits. And, from the starting point of the third quarter, it only got colder for the host Stars.
On the ensuing series, a Kearney Catholic punt snap hit one of the blocking backs and Boone Central/Newman Grove recovered to take possession at the Stars’ 31-yard line.
Despite a first-down holding penalty, Mazour shredded the Kearney Catholic defense for consecutive gains of 19, 12 and 10 yards, the last for a touchdown.
BC/NG tacked on a two-point conversion and the final result began to seem inevitable.
That Cardinal burst, from the interception through the touchdown that produced the 20-point lead, overcame a strong start by the lower-seeded Stars that had hometown fans hopeful their team could avenge a 2013 playoff loss to BC/NG.
As the celebration began, following the contest, Cardinal thoughts turned to Lincoln and a chance to win a state championship.
“We’ll now prepare for the finals,” Johnson said later. “We are very appreciative of our many fans for their support.
“It’s fun to get ready just for ourselves, but our fans add another reason to give it our all.”
Further details in Print & Online editions of Albion News