ALBION — Gothenburg showed a little spark of life when a throwback pass pulled the Swedes even with Boone Central/Newman Grove in the first quarter of Tuesday’s Class C-1 state playoffs quarterfinal.
That spark was extinguished 14 seconds later.
Blake Slizoski returned the kickoff 83 yards to give the No. 2-rated Cardinals the lead for good, and they went on to go up by as many as 31 points before settling for a 38-20 victory.
“We had a really great start,’ Boone Central/Newman Grove coach Arnie Johnson said. “We have kids that can make plays and if we get them in the open field, we’re going to get it done.”
Slizoski did that while weaving around Swedes before going up the left sidelines to give BC/NG (10-1) a 14-7 lead with 4:03 left in the first quarter.
That came after Gothenburg (6-5) had struck big on a third-and-7 play. Quarterback Blake Ristine pitched to running back Zach Wolf. Ristine then snuck out around the left end undetected, and Wolf hit him for a 65-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7.
“(Giving up the touchdown) hurt us right away, and when Blake turned it around after that return, it was great,” said Boone Central/Newman Grove quarterback/defensive back Tanner Mazour. “We needed that.”
Things were looking good for the Swedes after the trick play as they hoped to post their third straight road upset of the postseason.
“Then we kicked deep to him, and they returned the kickoff,” Gothenburg coach Craig Haake said. “That team has a lot of weapons, and they find ways to get them in space. We just didn’t really attack the way we had been recently, but they’ve got a great offensive and defensive line.
“We had a hard time moving the ball with any kind of consistency, and they controlled the line of scrimmage.”
Johnson wasn’t too concerned with giving up the throwback pass with the way his defense had looked early in the game.
“At that particular point, we looked like we had a pretty good plan and outside of a play like that — a halfback pass back to the quarterback — it didn’t look like they were going to do much all day against us,” he said.
“That wasn’t really the end of the world. We had some things we could do to make some plays. One of our goals this year was to return a kickoff (for a touchdown), so that was nice.”
Gothenburg only averaged 2.5 yards on its 51 carries, and the Swedes were stuffed going for it on fourth-and-1 from their own 46 in the second quarter.
“I thought we could kind of pound it between the tackles a little bit, and we weren’t able to generate very much of anything,” Haake said. “We knew they were big and physical, but they shut down our running game.”
On the next play, Hunter Henry got behind a pair of Swedes, and Mazour hit him for a 46-yard score and a 14-7 lead with 8:31 left in the half.
The Cardinals got a final possession in the half at their own 37-yard line with 37 seconds remaining. Mazour scrambled for gains of 11 and 18 yards with a facemask penalty tacked on after the second one. He hit Derek Gentrup for a 16-yard gain down to the 3-yard line.
“The quarterback — he’s tough,” Haake said. “He made some great throws and great runs.”
After an incomplete pass into the end zone, Fabian Hohnert converted a 20-yard field goal to extend the lead to 24-7 as the half expired.
“We’ve been really good at scoring at the end of first halves,” Johnson said. “Sometimes we hope we’ll score one touchdown with two minutes left and we end up scoring two just because the way it worked out.
“We managed the clock real well there to get a field goal, and that was nice.”
Gothenburg lost two fumbles early in the second half, and Boone Central/Newman Grove took advantage. Slizoski scored on an 8-yard run and Mazour hit Tyler Hedlund for an 11-yard TD to make it 38-7 with 8:47 remaining in the third.
“I think our line is doing it for us,” said Mazour, who finished 5-for-7 for 87 yards and added 79 yards on seven carries. “Our backs are getting extra yards after contact, so it’s going really well.”
The one negative for Boone Central/Newman Grove was the second-string offense turning the ball over four times in a span of eight plays in the fourth quarter.
Gothenburg took advantage to get touchdown runs by Preston Franzen (2 yards) and Logan Sheets (1 yard). The Cardinals’ first-team defense had to return when the Swedes got a first-and-goal from the 7-yard line with under two minutes left to get a stop and keep it from becoming really interesting again.
“It was a lackluster ending,” Johnson said. “We need to make sure we finish, and they got the momentum back and then they got going.
“We’ll obviously need to play better as far as protecting the ball for next week.”
Gothenburg (6-5) ................ 7 0 0 13—20
Boone Central/NG (10-1) ............... 14 10 14 0—38
BCNG—T. Mazour 6 run (Hohnert kick), 9:16.
G—Ristine 65 pass from Wolf (Ostendorf kick), 4:17.
BCNG—Slizoski 83 kickoff return (Hohnert kick), 4:03.
BCNG—Henry 46 pass from T. Mazour (Hohnert kick), 8:23.
BCNG—Hohnert 20 field goal, 0:00.
BCNG—Slizoski 8 run (Hohnert kick), 11:36.
BCNG—Hedlund 11 pass from T. Mazour, 8:47
G—Franzen 2 run (Ostendorf kick), 9:50.
G—Sheets 1 run (run failed), 3:42.
RUSHING—G, Sheets 10-38, Franzen 18-31, Wolf 9-22, Ristine 9-21, Schwanz 4-14, Kottwitz 1-3. BCNG, T. Mazour 7-79, Slizoski 12-55, W. Mazour 7-32, Bounds 4-8, Finkral 1-7, Sock 1-2, Brugger 1-(minus 2), TEAM 1-(minus 2).
PASSING—G, Wolf 1-1-0 65, Ristine 3-10-0 44, Schwanz 2-7-0 18. BCNG, T. Mazour 5-7-0 87, W. Mazour 1-3-1 29.
RECEIVING—G, Koehler 2-32, Ristine 1-65, Ostendorf 1-25, Sheets 1-12, Wolf 1-(minus 7). BCNG—Henry 2-46, Gentrup 2-45, Hedlund 2-25.