There was no state playoff prize awaiting the winner, but the Boone Central Cardinals made sure they ended their 2020 high school football season on a positive note Thursday at the Boone Central athletic field in Albion.
Fighting through bitter wind chills and displaying the all-around effort they had been seeking all season, the Cardinals soared past the visiting O’Neill Eagles 54-7 to finish 2020 with a 3-4 record.
It was a tough, uneven season, with yo-yo emotions, that included cancellation of two games due to COVID-19 protocols and close losses in several games decided by just a handful of plays here or there.
“Better way to finish the year,” acknowledged Boone Central Coach Mark Hudson. “O’Neill is struggling quite a bit, but our kids were finally ‘locked-in focused’ and came out not to play, but to compete.
“Taking the wind in the first and third quarters also paid dividends, as it helped our passing game and set us up with short fields.
“The eight seniors will be missed, but they have helped set the foundation – we were more competitive this year. We were just a few plays short. Hopefully, we can build and have a great offseason.”
Boone Central looked like the team ready to play – and the team that wanted to play – from the outset Thursday.
The Cardinals forced a punt on O’Neill’s initial possession, then took just three plays to score. Braden Benes passed 27 yards to Ryan Kramer and Wyatt Nissen followed with runs of 14 and six yards, the second for the game’s first touhdown. Kramer added the PAT for a 7-0 lead.
Boone Central had the scoreboard spinning like a slot machine throughout the first quarter. Benes connected with Kramer for a 29-yard score, #2 quarterback Alex Christo passed 10 yards to Carsten Bird for a touchdown, and Benes added a 20-yard TD toss to Ashton Schafer for a 27-0 lead.
Neither team could hit paydirt in the second period, but Boone Central doubled its total following halftime.
Benes bolted 47 yards for a touchdown with 9:36 to play in the third quarter and tacked on a two-point conversion pass to Bird. Later in the stanza, Nissen added a defensive touchdown to his offensive tally, returning an interception 37 yards. O’Neill (1-8) scored its only points in the first two minutes of the fourth period, but Boone Central reserves responded with the finishing touches on the rout. Freshman Parker Borer dashed 44 yards for one touchdown and frosh Brant Benes intercepted an Eagle aerial, then completed a short three-play drive with a three-yard touchdown run.
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