By Scott Watson
It was a tough way to end the season as the Garner-Hayfield/Ventura Cardinals (7-4) were eliminated in the first round of playoffs by the Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley Nighthawks (9-1), 34-13. Big plays made the difference for the Nighthawks as both teams managed over 300 yards of offense.
Each of the Nighthawk touchdowns came from a play of more than 20 yards, making it difficult
for the Cardinals to control the explosiveness of the Nighthawk offense.
“We struggled to contain their quarterback and running back,” said GHV Head Coach Scott VanDusseldorp. “They were able to break some big plays and made it difficult to come back.”
The first drive to scrimmage went to BHR. The waters of the GHV defense were tested as a long drive of mixed tricks were attempted. The Nighthawk momentum was stopped on GHV’s 19-yard line.
Next was the Cardinal’s turn to try for the end zone. The drive yielded respectable yard gains, but the GHV drive ended with a missed 53-yard field goal attempt.
On the following possession, a Nighthawk running back found a lane to run in and broke the Cardinal defense for an 80-yard touchdown. The point after touchdown kick was no good, for a 6-0 score to close to the first quarter.
The bend, but don’t break style of defense the Cardinals have played all season wasn’t doing it for them Friday night as BHR broke free again on a 58-yard touchdown. This time the PAT kick was good, 13-0.
But the Cardinals came back with a vengeful fervor, behind the legs of running back, Braden Meints. GHV ran the length of the field, but was stopped just outside the red zone. Again they were forced to try for the field goal. The 41-yard kick missed as time expired for a halftime score of 13-0, Nighthawks.
Following the second half kickoff, Meints was stripped of the ball, causing a turnover on downs. BHR took advantage of a shortened field, scoring quickly on a 22-yard run with a PAT kick.
The relentless Cardinals didn’t give up, as a drive typical of the ground and pound GHV offense produced a touchdown via a Meints rush and PAT kick.
The Nighthawks broke the GHV defense again on a play that busted the field open with a 56-yard rushing touchdown and PAT kick.
After a couple of possessions proved fruitless for both teams, the BHR offense changed tactics, deferring to a more pass-oriented style of play. The change up was too much for the Cardinal secondary as the Nighthawks again found the end zone, this time via air. The PAT kick was good.
The Cardinal spark wasn’t extinguished yet, as the offense found its groove, driving the length of the field, short gain after short gain, leading to a touchdown.
The following onside kick was successfully recovered by Meints, but it came too little too late for the Cardinals.
BHG brought a close to the Cardinals’ season with the 34-13 victory.
The Cardinals finished the night with 311 yards of offense; 299 coming from the rushing attack and a mere 12 in the air.
The Nighthawks totaled 422 yards of offense; 341 rushing and 81 passing.
Leading the GHV offense was Meints with 232 yards rushing on 33 attempts and a touchdown. Tyler Buck had 36 yards on 13 carries and Nic Tusha totaled 32 yards on 10 attempts.
Spencer Shaw attempted two passes, completing one to Shawn Murphy for 12 yards.
Meints also lead the Cardinal defense with five tackles. Devora Allan contributed three and one-half, Tusha three and Colton Knutson had two and one-half.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these young men. The senior leadership was some of the best I have ever been around. It was truly an honor to be part of these athletes’ lives,” said VanDusseldorp.