By Marc Zavala
Special teams helped Central City gain momentum against Grand Island Central Catholic.
The Bison blocked a punt, made a field goald and forced a turnover on a kickoff return. All that helped them come away with a 40-17 win over the Crusaders in less than ideal conditions Friday at Northwest High School.
Central City blocked a punt early in the second quarter, which led a safety to get the Bison on the board. Central City ended the half with a 33-yard field goal from Trevor Ziska for an 11-3 lead.
Then on the opening kickoff of the second half, Central City recovered a Crusader fumble to set up a score in the third quarter.
“We talked about special teams and the importance of that during the week,” Bison coach Troy Huebert said. “The blocked punt was big, getting the turnover on the opening kickoff of the second half and scoring was big. Those were big momentum plays for us.”
Mistakes haunted GICC during the course of the game. The Crusaders had three turnovers, two fumbles and an interception and were penalized six times for 50 yards.
“It was a number of things that didn’t go our way,” GICC coach Tim Dvorak said. “We made a number of mistakes between turnovers and missed tackles that led to big plays. We had a lot of missed assignments. It was going to come down who was going to play the cleaner game on a sloppy field and Central City was able to do that.”
Michael Rutherford had himself a day as well.
The Bison senior quarterback had 28 carries for 145 yards with two scores and also was 14 of 20 for 125 yards and threw two strikes. His first score came on a 62-yard run that put the Bison up 8-3 in the second quarter.
“He’s done a great job for us all year long,” Huebert said. “Offensively he gets us going and has a great feel for the game and for our offense. He’s the leader of the group and continues to get better. He’s super tough and super resilient.”
Dvorak said it was other players than just Rutherford that hurt GICC. Tanner Schneiderheinz caught six passes for 76 yards that included an 18-yard pass two plays after the turnover to start the second half. Charles McGinnis caught had five catches for 27 yards with a score as well.
“That team is filled with athletes and I think they are much better than their record,” Dvorak said of the 2-4 Bison. “They had a tough schedule in C-1. They are a very good football team. They played much displined and cleaner than we did tonight.”
Dietrick Stolz kicked a 36-yard field goal for the Crusaders. GICC quarterback Russell Martinez was 12 of 184 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Most of the yardage came in the fourth quarter after Central City had built a 33-3 lead. Martinez threw a 26-yard scoring pass to Reid Martinez and a 43-yard pass to Tanner Turek.
Dvorak said he liked that the Crusaders, who have lost three straight games after a 3-0 start, were still fighting late in the game.
“That’s my favorite part about this team,” he said. “Our kids are always going to fight to the end and are never going to give up.”
Huebert said he hopes the win helps their momentum for the rest of the season after starting 1-4 against a tough schedule. They lost to Class C-2, No. 2 St. Paul (34-13), C-1, No. 8 Ord (44-21) and No. 10 Columbus Scotus (41-27).
“We had a lot of adversity against a tough schedule to start the year,” he said. “The kids came out and had a great week of practice. A lot of teams who are 1-4 would probably fold the tent but we didn’t do that and it showed tonight. I hope this helps with our momentum even though we have a lot of tough district games coming up. I feel like we’ll be ready to go.”
GICC plays at Wood River, while Central City goes to Fairbury next week.