BOONE - The season couldn’t have started much better for the Ballard football team when the Bombers took on old rival Boone Friday at Boone.
Ballard raced out to a 20-0 lead after one quarter and withstood a Boone rally over the second and third quarters to pull away for a 34-15 victory.
It was the first game for Corey Vespestad and Kyle Howard as co-head coaches of the program. They are taking over for Al Christian, who won 134 games and made the postseason nine times in 21 seasons at Ballard, and the Bombers didn’t miss a beat on Friday.
“We’re both really proud of our kids,” Howard said. “They played really hard. Boone is a good team.”
An overpowering presence in the trenches on both sides of the ball keyed the victory. Ballard rushed for 293 yards and held Boone to 77 yards on the ground.
The Bombers also did a great job taking care of the ball. They went turnover free on the night.
Connor Drew had a short touchdown run and threw a 27-yard scoring strike to Reece Huen, and Skyler Noftsger broke free for a 55-yard scoring scamper to give Ballard its big lead after one quarter. Boone closed within 20-9 at the half after picking up a safety and getting a 2-yard scoring run from Chris Bushore in the final minute in the second quarter.
The Toreadors cut Ballard’s lead to 20-15 late in the third quarter thanks to a big play. Tyler Casotti connected with Brett Price for a 55-yard touchdown pass with 2:49 to go in the quarter.
But Ballard quickly answered. Noftsger ran one in from three yards out just over a minute later to put the Bombers up 12 going into the fourth quarter.
The Ballard defense stepped up to blank Boone over the final 12 minutes to put the game away. Noftsger capped a tremendous individual game with his third touchdown run, this one coming from six yards out, to put the finishing touches on the win.
“We were able to overcome some adversity in the second quarter,” Vespestad said. “We were proud of how they responded.”
Noftsger ran for an even 200 yards on just 24 carries. Drew completed two passes for 54 yards — both to Huen — and he also ran for 24 yards in his first start at quarterback.
Huen added 24 yards rushing and Aaron Kinshaw picked up 45 yards on the ground for the Bombers.
Sam Salasek made 8.5 tackles and two stops behind the line and Sam Andrews tallied seven stops plus two tackles for loss for Ballard on defense. Joe Hofbauer and Logan Harmeyer each chipped in 6.5 stops and one tackle behind the line and Rylee Davidson added 4.5 tackles.
Price had three catches for 103 yards, Casotti threw for 87 yards and had 36 receiving, Morgan Smith completed 8 of 20 passes for 69 yards and Norbert Riyazimana picked up 70 yards on the ground for Boone. Gage Morain delivered 8.5 tackles, Casotti and Riyazimana seven apiece and Bushore 5.5 for the Toreadors defensively.
Ballard will host Carroll (0-1) on senior night in its home opener at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Rich Strouse Field in Huxley.
Ballard 34, Boone 15
Ballard 20 0 7 7 - 34
Boone 0 9 6 0 - 15
Ballard - Connor Drew 2 run (Brenden Vincent kick), 10:48.
Ballard - Skyler Noftsger 55 run (Vincent kick), 2:30.
Ballard - Reece Huen 27 pass from Drew (kick failed), 0:31.
Boone - Safety, 0:59.
Boone - Christian Bushore 2 run (John Runestad kick), 0:19.
Boone - Brett Price 88 pass from Tyler Casotti (2-point conversion failed), 2:49.
Ballard - Noftsger 3 run (Vincent kick), 1:48.
Ballard - Noftsger 6 run (Vincent kick), 5:39.
First downs 10 5
Rushes-yards 49-293 35-77
Passing 2-6-0 9-21-0
Passing yards 54 156
Total yards 347 233
Fumbles-lost 0-0 0-0
Punts-average 4-30.8 7-36.1
Penalties-yards 4-47 4-46
Rushing: Ballard - Skyler Noftsger 24-200, Aaron Kinshaw 6-45, Reece Huen 9-24, Connor Drew 10-24. Boone - Norbert Riyazimana 14-70, Christian Bushore 4-13, Tyler Casotti 4-11, Wyatt Oppedahl 2-2, Cole Burge 1-(-1), Morgan Smith 10-(-18).
Passing: Ballard - Drew 2-6-0-54. Boone - Casotti 1-1-0-87, Smith 8-20-0-69.
Receiving: Ballard - Huen 2-54. Boone - Bret Price 3-103, Casotti 2-36, Tegan Bock 2-9, Riyazimana 1-7, Quali Sporra 1-1.
Tackles: Ballard - Sam Salasek 8.5, Sam Andrews 7, Logan Harmeyer 6.5, Joe Hofbauer 6.5. Boone - Gage Morain 8.5, Casotti 7, Riyazimana 7, Bushore 5.5.