LINCOLN — Giltner’s defense aided its offense Monday in taking control of the Eight Man-2 championship game.
The Hornets stopped Humphrey St. Francis twice inside the red zone in the first half, the first time scoring on the next play, for a 24-point halftime lead that held up for a 42-26 victory before 1,402 at Memorial Stadium.
“On fourth down in the first half they stopped us, and on fourth down they converted,” St. Francis coach Eric Kessler said. “That’s why they’re the champions and we’re not.”
Jake Findley threw five touchdown passes and ran for the other score for No. 3 Giltner (13-0). With 396 yards on 35-of-52 passing, the 6-foot-2 senior set the state eight-man season passing records with 3,904 yards and 67 touchdowns. No interceptions, either, for the season.
“Our offensive line was tremendous. It gave us all day to throw and Jake had all day to take off running if he needed to,” Giltner coach Jeff Ashby said.
The Hornets led 30-8 at halftime even though their time of possession was 5 minutes, 48 seconds of the 24-minute half.
They led by 16 points or more throughout the second half to clinch their first state playoff championship since the 1984 team went undefeated in Eight Man-2. Giltner’s other state title was a ratings crown in 1971 when it was 9-0 in Eight-Man.
How the first half unraveled for No. 2 St. Francis (12-1):
First possession, punt. A 58-yard drive for Giltner, capped by Findley’s 7-yarder to Dustin Hastings.
Second possession, held on downs at the Giltner 7 after an incompletion. Next play, a 73-yard touchdown hookup from Findley to Ben Hinrichs.
“They made an emotional-type play to turn around momentum and came back with a home run play,” Kessler said. “I wouldn’t say we let up there. That was the only big, big play I think they got on us. There were so many plays that if we had gotten a stop, something good might have happened.”
Third possession, a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Nathan Classen. Giltner came back with a 60-yard drive that saw Findley score from the 12.
Fourth possession, held on downs at the Giltner 25 after Hinrichs sacked Classen with 28 seconds left. That was sufficient time for Findley to throw 9 yards to Hastings and 22 yards to Kyle Hawthorne before going back to Hawthorne on the half’s final play for a 23-yard scoring play.
Findley and Classen traded touchdown passes twice in the second half. The only time the Flyers had the ball with a chance to cut deeper into the lead came in the final two minutes after a Giltner punt that left St. Francis starting at its 12. It got to the Giltner 20 before Garrett Poppen’s sack at game’s end.
Giltner (13-0) ................ 14 16 6 6—42
Humphrey St. Francis (12-1) ............... 0 8 12 6—26
G: Dustin Hastings 7 pass from Jake Findley (pass failed)
G: Ben Hinrichs 73 pass from Findley (Findley run)
SF: Nathan Classen 1 run (Jake Werner pass from Classen)
G: Findley 12 run (Kyle Hawthorne pass from Findley)
G: Hawthorne 23 pass from Findley (Ryan Kleier pass from Findley)
SF: JJ Oltmer 2 run (pass failed)
G: Hinrichs 18 pass from Findley (run failed)
SF: Oltmer 41 pass from Classen (pass failed)
G: Hastings 10 pass from Jake Findley (pass failed)
SF: Caleb Sjuts 6 pass from Classen (pass failed)
RUSHING: G, Findley 7-46, Kleier 6-7, Hawthorne 2-0. SF, Chad Haiar 17-90, Oltmer 24-89, Werner 2-13, Classen 5-minus 27.
PASSING: G, Findley 35-52-0 396. SF, Classen 9-18-0 117, Sam Zach 2-3-0 22, Sjuts 1-1-0 11.
RECEIVING: G, Hastings 14-118, Hawthorne 11-112, Hinrichs 7-132, Kleier 3-34. SF, Werner 4-39, Haiar 4-32, Oltmer 2-60, Sjuts 2-19.
DEFENSE (unassisted-assisted-tackles): G, Kleier 7-10-17, Hawthorne 4-12-16, B. Hinrichs 7-5-12, Dylan Hinrichs 6-6-12, D. Hastings 5-6-11, Garrett Poppen 4-5-9, Justin Joyce 0-3-3, Jacob Hastings 1-1-2, Findley 1-0-1. SF, Wieser 7-2-9, Oltmer 6-1-7, Haiar 4-3-7, Corbin Eisenmenger 4-2-6, N. Classen 5-0-5, Michael McPhillips 3-0-3, Zach 2-1-3, Werner 2-0-2, Sjuts 1-1-2, Austin Classen 1-0-1.