ALBION, Neb. — What could be better than scoring the winning touchdown to send your team to the state championship game?
How about calling the play, too?
That's what Boone Central/Newman Grove junior receiver Derek Gentrup did in Tuesday's Class C-1 state playoffs semifinal against No. 1-rated Adams Central.
That play resulted in a 17-yard touchdown pass from Tanner Mazour with 6:16 left to give the No. 2 Cardinals a 21-14 victory.
“I told (coach Arnie Johnson) '96 stop' and it worked,” Gentrup said. “I told him right before we ran it. I ran in, and we scored. I barely made it in the end zone.”
Gentrup took the pass from Mazour inside the 5-yard line and dove into the left corner of the end zone to provide the only touchdown that wasn't scored on the opening possession of a half.
“Our receivers have a lot of confidence in themselves, and I have a lot of confidence in them,” Johnson said. “They've actually gotten to the point where they call many of the plays.
“Our touchdown pass on that drive, the receiver said, 'Coach, this is open.' I just had complete confidence in him.”
Another Boone Central/Newman Grove receiver came up with a big catch two plays before Gentrup's score. Hunter Henry outleaped double coverage for a 32-yard gain on a third-and-7 play to move the Cardinals to the Patriots' 12-yard line and keep the drive alive.
“With the receivers we have, if we can give them a chance — and Tanner has learned to throw the ball up in the air to give them a chance — we just think that's a lot of times better than a 50-50 chance we're going to come down with the ball,” Johnson said. “(Henry) did that on that play. That was a great play.”
Gentrup wasn't surprised to see Henry come down with the ball despite being well covered.
“That was huge. We practice every day together,” he said. “You've got to love to see a guy do that. I got a great look at that one I was confident he was coming down with it. I see him do that every day.”
Adams Central (11-1) couldn't gain a first down on its next two possessions, and the clock expired on its third try with the ball on the Cardinals' 40-yard line.
“It was a tough game for our kids, obviously,” Adams Central coach Bill Carlin said. “It was a very evenly matched game. They made a couple drives there in the second half that really hurt us.
“When we scored and then they came back and answered, I thought that was a big drive for them. They held us and then they came back and got another one. But I thought both teams played very hard, and there's nothing to be ashamed of.”
Mazour, who completed 13 of 20 passes for 139 yards, scored on a 3-yard quarterback sweep to give the Cardinals (11-1) a 7-0 lead at 8:03 of the first quarter.
The Patriots answered with quarterback Creighton Reed scrambling for a 7-yard touchdown with 3:47 left.
The teams didn't score again until the second half. Adams Central ate up 7:23 while going 65 yards on 14 plays and took a 14-7 lead on Tyler Kirkegaard's 5-yard reception.
Boone Central answered with a 69-yard drive that ended with Mazour's 1-yard sneak.
Adams Central (11-1)..........................7 0 7 0—14
At Boone Central/NG (11-1).................7 0 7 7—21
BCNG: T. Mazour 3 run (Hohnert kick)
AC: Reed 7 run (Fowler kick)
AC: Kirkegaard 5 pass from Reed (Fowler kick)
BCNG: T. Mazour 1 run (Hohnert kick)
BCNG: Gentrup 17 pass from T. Mazour (Hohnert kick)