Boone Central's Tanner Mazour (#13) sprints for yardage.
High school football just doesn't get any better than the Norfolk Catholic/Boone Central/NG classic Friday night in Albion. On a picture perfect night for football, the theatre couldn't have been more perfect than the scene at the Boone Central Athletic Field. Class C-1's number one Norfolk Catholic Knights rallied from a 10 point deficit in the 3rd quarter to push a touchdown across with a 1:06 left in the game to turn back #4 Boone Central/NG 35-31. It was a game for the ages and one of the finest high school football games I have seen in a ton of Fridays. Clean play, tough hits, extremely talented players, and a bushel basket full of desire and "never give up" spirits on both sides of the ball, etched an unforgettable memory in the minds of a whole lot of fans who overflowed the Albion facility for this Classic. High school football was at a fever pitch for 48 minutes.
From the dazzling play of Boone Central/NG quarterback Tanner Mazour to the determined, power running of Norfolk's Catholic's splendid junior Jackson Love, the final outcome was in doubt until the final play of the game. With a convincing win over Pierce a week ago, and the performance against Norfolk Catholic on this night, the Cardinals of Boone Central elevated their football team back to the elite level in the circles of Class C-1 football that they had experienced in the early and mid 2000's. The Cardinals are back and going toe to toe with C-1's best of the best just as they did from 2001-2007. Norfolk Catholic has never gone away, but the big boys have just been put on alert that Boone Central/Newman Grove is officially back among the teams you do not want to play in class C-1.
Almost every detail was about this clash of top five C-1 teams was just right, including the officiating. Only 5 yellow flags hit the lush green grass of the Boone Central field, but the penalties that were called came at critical times, the last one snuffing out a final opportunity for Cardinals to win the battle. The final score was a surprise to this guy, as well as my sideline buddy for the evening, Norfolk Daily News prep sports director Tom Behmer. I expected a defensive struggle with the final count ending up in the neighborhood of 14-7, but instead it was a stat keepers dream with non stop offensive drama. In no way did that reflect the inefficiency of either defense.....these offenses are just that potent.
Norfolk Catholic struck first in the opening quarter after Brandon Becker intercepted a Tanner Mazour pass at the Boone Central 31 and returned it to the 11 yard line. Five plays later 200 pound fullback Kyle Schaefer blasted over from the 1 for the initial score of the game. QB Jordan Bellar
booted the extra point through and the Knights had a 7-0 lead with 5:34 left in the 1st. Catholic had another opportunity in the opening frame, marching from their own 14 all the way to Cardinal 28, but Bellar threw an interception to his counterpart Tanner Mazour and the drive was foiled.
Boone Central took over at the 26 as the quarter ended and Mazour's arm went to work, completing four straight passes of 17, -1, a magnificient 32 yard catch by Hunter Henry and a 22 yard strike to junior Derek Gentrup who was taken down 2 yards short of the goal line. Tanner Mazour then faked to the fullback, did a slick spin and rolled left while the Boone Central line sealed off the Knights right side. Mazour waltzed in nearly untouched for the score. The point after was blocked by 240 pound Garret McCarthy and Norfolk Catholic still maintained the lead 7-6 with 10:18 left in the half.
The Knights were forced to punt on the next drive after being flagged for penalties twice in the drive. Bellar got off a short punt of 22 yards to the Boone 42 and the Cardinals came out firing with the momentum they displayed on the previous drive, scoring in short order....and I mean short. Mazour nailed Henry with a 13 yard pass, fleet senior RB Blake Slizowski ripped off a 13 yard run, then Mazour pulled off the identical play he did on the extra point try a few moments earlier, and used his speed to out run the Knights on a 34 yard jaunt down the Boone sideline for the score. Mazour's ball fake in the line and his ability to hide the ball were a sight to see on the play. The Cardinals went for two on the conversion. Mazour started the play to the right then abruptly stopped, turned a fired a pass to the left to an "all by his lonesome" Hunter Henry for the 2 point conversion. 6:10 left in the half....Boone had their first lead, 14-7.
Disaster struck Norfolk Catholic on the second play from scrimmage after the ensuing kick-off when Kyle Schaefer lost the handle after a 6 yard gain and Boone Central recovered at the Catholic 31. The Knight's defense stiffened though, and Boone Central had to settle for a 31 yard field goal by Fabien Hohnert for a 17-7 lead with 3:59 left before halftime. Norfolk Catholic was not about to be denied and went to work from their own 26 with 3:57 left before the break.
Coach Jeff Bellar decided it was time to put the ball in the hands of Jackson Love, and the 190 pound fullback responded by carrying seven times in the drive for 51 yards. On a 20 yard power dash from the Knight 38 to the Boone 48, Love bulldozed over tacklers, dragging them for extra yards. After Boone stiffened and stopped Love to 2 yards on 2 carries to the two yard line, Bellar found all-state receiver Connor Ketter in a coverage mismatch and rifled a 2 yard TD pass to the physcial speciman with just 17 ticks left in the 2nd. Bellar kicked the point through and Norfolk Catholic closed the gap to 17-14 at the half.
The Knights received the 2nd half kick-off and went right back to Jackson Love. The solid all-state candidate toted the ball on 6 of the 11 plays on the 70 yard drive. Love used his intelligence on a sweep play from the Boone 4 yard line to avoid a catastrophe and keep the drive alive. A Cardinal defender stripped the ball loose from his grasp causing a fumble, but Jackson batted it out of bounds on his way down to save the drive. One play later Bellar found his tall target, Connor Ketter for a 6 yard score and the Kinghts had their first lead (21-17) since the opening quarter and appeared to have regained the momentum in the battle. Boone Central changed that thought in a heck of a hurry.
After cornerback Logan Olsen retuned the kick-off from the 7 to the 38, the Cardinals began to move the ball. On a third and 3 from the Catholic 43, the master of trickery, Tanner Mazour took the ball, put it in the fullback's belly, pulled it back out, turned and set sail around the left end once again for a 26 yard gain to the Knight 17. Sophomore Wyatt Mazour then took the handoff and rode a crunching block on the defensive end around a the right side for a 20 yard gallop. Blake Slizowski then crashed in over left tackle from the one and Boone had the lead again 24-21.
Norfolk Catholic looked like they were back in business after Nick Arlt retuned the ensuing kick-off to the Knight's 40. The Boone "D" held for a 3 and out and what happened next was a thing of beauty to everyone but the Norfolk Catholic defense. Tanner Mazour fielded a punt at his own 23, appeared to be trapped, then pulled off a "Johnny the Jet Rogers" Oklahoma punt return replay and skirted 77 yards down the Norfolk Catholic sidelines for a dazzling score. Mazour was actually sprung on the highlight reel return by an outstanding block by Wyatt Mazour. Sophomore Fabien Hohnert added the point after and now Boone was up 31-21 with 3:03 left in the 3rd. You probably know what's coming next...you guessed it, the Knights were not about to go without answering before the 3rd quarter ended.
Norfolk Catholic all-state QB, Jordan Bellar, a 3 year starter, mixed the run and the pass beautifully. But after the Knights reached the Boone 44 yard line, the drive looked like it may stall. Usually sure handed Connor Ketter dropped a pass, then Brandon Becker pulled in an ariel from Bellar, but coughed up the ball after a vicious hit. Luckily, the ball rolled ahead 11 yards and left the field of play, enabling Norfolk Catholic to maintain possession. With the ball on the Boone 45, Jackson Love blasted his way for 18 yards, then took a pitch, rode the seal-off block of the right side of the O-Line and motored 27 yards for the go ahead touchdown. The clock read 0:00 in the 3rd quarter when Love's foot touched the end zone and Catholic had closed the lead to 31-28 to begin the final quarter.
The 4th quarter was a battle of the defenses, but Boone Central actually had a decent drive going to begin the 4th quarter. A crucial holding penelty on the Norfolk Catholic 39 yard line killed the drive. That seemed to be the turning point in the game considering the Cardinals had only 106 total yards of offense in that second half. Catholic gave the Cardinals another opportunity when Jackson lost a fumble at his own 36 yard line with 6:37 left in the game, but the Knights held them to a 4 and out. Remember, Boone Central still had the lead 31-28 at this juncture.
Norfolk Catholic put together the winning drive after receiving outstanding field position at their own 40 with 4:20 left in regulation. Once again, Jordan Bellar fashioned a very efficient run/pass mix drive. The drama on this drive unfolded on a third and 3 play at the Boone 40. Jackson Love bulled his way for a short gain and the sticks had to be rushed all the way across the field at the out-of-bounds line right in front of the Knight bench for the measurement. I was standing 2 feet from that measurement when the nose of the ball extended an INCH past the 1st down marker. The rapid heartbeat was just beginning.
After Jackson gained 7 yards, Bellar took a 3 step drop, and sailed a picture pass to Connor Ketter, but (guess who?) Tanner Mazour, giving up 7 inches, leaped up and tipped a sure TD out of Ketter's hands. On 3rd and 7 from the 24, an athletic Riley Knake took a pitch from Bellar on an apparent end around, but Knake pulled up and under duress, fired a pass to Bellevue West transfer Allen Lewis, who was 15 yards in back of everyone and all alone in the end zone. The pass sailed right over the outstretched fingertips of Lewis. But on the next play, Bellar nailed Ketter with a 17 yard completion and 2 plays later Love crashed in from the 3 for the go ahead score. Knights 35 Boone Central 31....1:06 left.
Boone Central took the ball on their own 20 yard line and Mazour immediately found Hunter Henry for an 11 yard gain. After 2 incompletions, facing a 3rd and 10, Norfolk Catholic's Riley Knake pirated a Tanner Mazour pass at the Norfolk Catholic 44 yard line to end the hopes of the Cardinals. Boone actually had one more shot after they held Norfolk Catholic on three straight running plays. But on 4th and 3 from the Boone Central 47 and 20.7 seconds remaining, a Cardinal lineman jumped offside and the old ball game came to a conclusion and Norfolk Catholic came away with a classic 35-31 victory.
Norfolk Catholic improved their season record to 3-0 and continued their winning streak which now stands at 29. Boone Central falls to 2-1 on the season. The hard running Jackson Love led all rushers with 175-28 carries and 2 touchdowns with many yards coming after contact. The electrifying Tanner Mazour led Boone Central with 79 yards on only 9 carries. He scored twice on runs and added another on the "put 'em in the aisles" 77 yard punt return. The ultra slick Mazour was also 11-24 passing for 156 yards and picked off a Jordan Bellar pass from his defensive back position.
Norfolk Catholic will host Madison next week before travelling to Wahoo for what should be the Class C-1 game of the year. Boone will take next week off before hosting Columbus Scotus on September 21st.
Nor Cath - Boone Central
Passing......NC - Bellar 19-30-1 152 (Knake 0-1 0) BC/NG - Mazour 11-24-2 156