OMAHA — For two teams averaging 40 points per game, defenses ruled the day in Boone Central/Newman Grove’s 19-9 win over Boys Town in Friday’s Class C-1 quarterfinal game in Omaha.
Despite being held below 30 points for the first time all season, three short-field touchdowns were enough offense for the sixth-seeded Cardinals (9-2) to hand the third-seeded Cowboys (10-1) their first loss of the season.
The Cardinals’ defense limited Boys Town to just three first downs and 127 yards of total offense.
“We knew it was going to be a defensive struggle," BC/NG head coach Mark Hudson said. "Our defense has really come on lately. They have one of the best running backs in the state and we were able to frustrate him."
Telegram Super Senior Dylan Gentrup had to work hard for his yards against Boys Town, but came up with two critical plays on fourth downs.
Clinging to a 12-9 lead late in the third quarter and facing a fourth-and-goal from the 5-yard line, Gentrup rolled to his right and sprinted all the way to the sideline before turning and firing about a 50-yard pass across the field. The throw landed in the arms of a wide-open Ethan Dozler, who strolled in for the 5-yard TD to put the Cardinals up 19-9.
That score capped a 47-yard drive set up by a 7-yard punt from Boys Town.
Then, late in the fourth quarter as BC/NG was trying to run out the clock, Gentrup fumbled a snap on fourth-and-2 but recovered the ball and fell ahead for a first down, allowing the Cardinals to run out the rest of the clock.
"Sometimes (Gentrup) just has to be a good athlete," Hudson said. "Other times you have to get a good bounce this time of year."
The BC/NG quarterback finished with 115 yards and a score on 22 carries and completed 11 of 21 passes for 101 yards and a TD.
The Cardinals got out to a quick start in the game. After a 20-yard punt by Boys Town, the Cardinals drove 30 yards to go up 6-0.
Gentrup hit Brenden Beierman for a 21-yard gain on fourth-and-6, then Levi Krueger punched it in from 5 yards out.
A 56-yard punt return from Cody Nelson on the Cardinals’ next drive set up BC/NG with another short field, this time from the Boys Town 27.
Gentrup capped the drive with a 1-yard plunge to make it 12-0.
Boys Town scored all of its points in a 17-second span in the second quarter.
The Cowboys corralled Krueger in the end zone for a safety to make it 12-2. After Boys Town returned the ensuing kickoff to the BC/NG 35-yard line, Dashawn Bates took the next play 35 yards for a score to make it a 12-9 game.
Bates finished with 96 yards on 22 carries.
The Cardinals advance to the state semifinals for the first time since they won the state title in 2014. BC/NG plays 14th-seeded Pierce (7-4), which avenged a loss earlier in the season to West Point-Beemer with a 54-34 win over the seventh-seeded Cadets on Friday.
The Cardinals beat Pierce 42-20 in the season opener on Aug. 25.
"It’s a good northeast rivalry," Hudson said. "It’s going to be two different teams. It’s almost like looking at last year having played them that far back."