Boonville rally with big second half in 34-21 win over PIntos in district playoffs

Chris Bowie
Boonville Daily News

Don’t mind the Boonville Pirates football team for riding the momentum train all the way to the semifinal round of the Class 3 District 4 playoffs.

After avenging an earlier loss in the season with a 34-21 win over the California Pintos Friday night in California, the Pirates will now get a chance to knock off No. 1 seeded and state-ranked Blair Oaks Falcons this coming Friday in Wardsville.

While improving to 6-3 on the season, Boonville head coach Greg Hough said the Pirates are kind of on a redemption tour.

“The way the district has lined up, the teams that beat us earlier are still in front of us,” Hough said. “We’ve got Blair Oaks next week and they’re really good. We didn’t play really well against them the first time, but we’ve got a lot of momentum and excitement so we’ll see how it goes. We’ll go there and do the best we can.”

The Pintos definitely got the Pirates best in the second half to the tune of 27 points.

As for the first half, Boonville struggled offensively while managing just 65 yards in total offense compared to California’s 129.

Of course the Pintos may have also had something to prove early on after dropping their two previous games against Hallsville and Southern Boone by a combined score of 71-21.

California entered the game at 6-3 overall.

Needless to say, the Pirates had to play from behind for most of the first half as California took a 6-0 lead on a 59-yard pass from junior quarterback Calen Kruger to senior receiver Dawson Gump with 2:03 left in the opening quarter. 

Boonville punted the ball on its first-two possessions after gaining only 28 yards on its first series and then driving the ball to the Pintos 31 before turning the ball back over on downs. 

California then hit paydirt for a second time in the game when Kruger scored on a 4 yard run with 9:50 left in the half to extend the lead to 13-0.

The Pintos may have been too cute for its own good on the ensuing kick off by attempting an onside kick at midfield. Luckily, Boonville recovered the ball after a big pile up and then drove the ball 50 yards on nine plays for the touchdown on a 1 yard run by junior DJ Wesolak to make it 13-7 with 6:03 remaining.

Boonville and California then traded possessions after that to closeout the first half. 

The Pirates also had a highlight reel right before half when senior receiver Charlie Bronakowski hauled in a pass from Caton that was tipped by a California defender right into the hands of Bronakowski.

Hough said against a team like California, who is good against the run, they were also doing some stuff with the Pirates passing game. “They were doing some vertical stuff, so we just had to keep it going and see what they were doing, and then just keep making the ball and eventually break one,” Hough said. 

Perseverance paid off for Boonville in the second half in more ways than one. Down by six at the break, the Pirates came out with a 11-play, 72 yard drive for the score to go up for the first time in the game at 14-13. The 1 yard run by senior running back Andrew Wiser gave Boonville the lead for good with 7:17 left in the third quarter. 

Boonville sophomore quarterback Colby Caton, who had 18 carries for 128 yards and one touchdown in the game, said the offense fed off the defense and vice versa. 

“I think that says a lot about our team,” Caton said. “Once we got going, we fed off each other. We’re a big family and I think that says a lot about our guys and how we want to keep the momentum going.”

That’s an understatement.

While the defense held California to a total of 3 yards on its first drive of the second half, Boonville’s offense once again kicked it into high gear by moving the ball 81 yards on just five plays for the score. The 23-yard run by Caton while tight-roping down the sidelines extended the Pirates lead to 21-13 with 4:24 left.

Boonville’s defense then took its turn on the Pintos next drive when junior DaWan Lomax stepped in front of a Kruger pass and ran it all the way down to the California 19. Two plays later, Wiser picked up his second touchdown of the game on a 15-yard run to push the lead to 27-13.

Hough said the interception by Lomax was huge and then the pick later on in the game by Harper Stock was really big as well. “The momentum definitely flipped at that point,” Hough said. “Coming out at halftime we kind of had a two minute drill.”

It got worse before it got better for California. After a three and out on its next possession, the Pintos once again shot itself in the foot when senior linebacker Harper Stock picked off a Kruger pass and ran it all the way down to the California 1. While Harper said that was his first career interception, Boonville would later score on a 2 yard run by junior receiver Jamesian McKee to make it 34-13.

The Pintos answered with a late touchdown against the Pirates JV team by moving the ball 75 yards on just five plays. The 59 yard pass from Kruger to junior receiver Kaden Bax cut the lead to 13 at 34-21 with 2:05 left.

Caton said the team knew they had to come out and set the tempo in the second half, and once they got rolling-it was hard to stop. 

“Our guys were blocking their butts off against a really physical California team and I just think we wanted it more than they did,” Caton said. “We’ve been saying for awhile that this is the revenge tour. We didn’t think they deserved to beat us the first time, so we came out and showed them the real Boonville team. Again, the guys up front did a great job blocking  because I barely got touched the whole night.”

Boonville finished the game with 18 first downs, 319 yards rushing and 103 yards passing for a total of 422. California, meanwhile, had 12 first downs along with 120 yards rushing and 226 passing-mostly early-for a total of 346.

In addition to leading the team in rushing, Caton also completed 7 of 10 passes for 103 yards with one interception.

Bronakowski was the leading receiver in the game with one catch for 41 yards while Wesolak added two catches for 37 yards, McKee two catches for 15 yards and Lomax and Dakota Troost each with one catch for 5 yards. 

On defense for the Pirates, Evan Gonzalez finished the game with 12 total tackles and one tackle for a loss. Harper Stock finished the game with 10 tackles, one tackle for loss, one-half sack and one interception, DJ Wesolak and Lane West each with six tackles and three tackles for loss, Peyton Hahn with five tackles and one tackle for loss, Peyton Taylor and Jamesian McKee each with four tackles, Dakota Troost and Max Eckerle with three tackles each, Huston Force and Spencer Steakley each with two tackles, Andre Wiser with one tackle and one tackle for a loss and DaWan Lomax and Matthew Conrow each with one tackle.

West also had 2.5 sacks in the game while Wesolak added one sack. Lomax also had one interception in the game. 

For California, senior running back Tagen Higgins had 16 carries for 95 yards. Kruger finished the game with 12 carries for 6 yards while completing 8 of 16 passes for 226 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. 

Senior receiver Dawson Gump hauled in three catches for 110 yards and one touchdown while Bax had three receptions for 83 yards and one score.

Boonville senior linebacker Harper Stock races toward the end zone after picking off a pass from California quarterback Calen Kruger in the fourth quarter Friday night in the opening round of the Class 3 District 4 Playoffs in California. The Pirates defeated the Pintos 34-21.
Boonville sophomore quarterback Colby Caton runs through a hole in the second half Friday night against California in the opening round of the Class 3 District 4 playoffs at California. The Pirates beat the Pintos 34-21 to move on to semifinal round against top-seeded Blair Oaks on Friday, Nov. 6 in Wardsville.