It’s the big one, boys!
First-seed Omaha Burke and seventh-seed Grand Island will fight for all the marbles in the Class A state championship on Monday night. The Bulldogs are 0-3 in state title games since 1978 — their most recent being a 21-9 loss against Lincoln Southeast in 2011. The Islanders are 1-2 in that same time frame, but their lone victory — a 31-7 whooping over Omaha Creighton Prep — was all the way back in '78.
Until last week, Burke had blown out every single school that they played in the playoffs, including a 43-20 first round rout of Papillion-La Vista and a 35-13 defeat over Lincoln Southeast in the quarterfinals. Their closest game of the year was last week’s 35-28 nail-biter over fifth-seed semifinal foe Millard West.
“To win the state championship, we have to be physical, play our game, special teams, and basically just be who we have been all season,” junior outside linebacker Jack Neussendorfer said.
The Bulldogs are better than ever: inside sources tell us that both starting inside linebackers, senior Nebraska commit Nick Henrich (knee) and senior Creighton Kimnach (concussion), will likely play on Monday night. This will bolster their defense’s core and alleviate pressure on other star-studded defenders like Xavier Watts, Chris Hickman, and Jaylon Roussell.
Grand Island has also made lots of noise during their championship run. They were down 24-0 to defending state champ Omaha North in the first round of the playoffs, then went for 38 unanswered points to beat the Vikings for the first time since 2009.
Next, they traveled to Millard South, a team that had not lost a home game all year. They were down double digits against the Patriots before scoring 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to seal the quarterfinal.
The Islanders punched their tickets to the state title with a 37-30 stunner over third-seed Bellevue West last week. And the seventh-seed Cinderellas aren't stopping there: senior quarterback Cole Evans believes that sticking to their fundamentals will help earn Grand Island the trophy.
“We just need to play our style of football: low, hard, fast, and physical,” Evans said. “Ball security and special teams will also be a big key in a big game like this.”
The Bulldogs and Islanders will put it all on the line for the Class A finals on Monday, November 19. Catch the game in person at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, NE, or watch live on NET.