CRETE, Neb. — A first-quarter momentum swing might not seem like much in a 31-point game.
But an early stand and subsequent dagger were the starting point of a fourth straight rout for Class B No. 1 Gretna.
The top-ranked Dragons held on fourth-and-goal midway through the opening quarter, and three plays later threw a haymaker on a 96-yard touchdown pass that sparked a 31-0 victory Friday night over No. 6 Crete.
Gretna's average margin of victory in its last four games is 32 points. Three of those wins have come on the road, and three have been against teams with a record of .500 or better entering Friday.
“Not as pretty as I would have liked,” Gretna coach Chad Jepsen said. “We still have a long ways to go. A lot left to clean up.”
Could have fooled those at Doane College's Al Papik Field on Friday night.
After an interception on the opening drive of the game set Crete up at the Gretna 30, the Dragon defense stiffened inside its own 5.
Back-to-back carries went for nothing on second and third downs, and a fade route to the left corner was broken up on fourth.
Facing a third-and-long on the ensuing drive, Gretna quarterback Nick Stoltenberg found Derek Templeman on a quick slant to the right that Templeman took through the middle of the secondary and down the left sideline for a 96-yard scoring strike.
“It was a good catch, good throw right in the window,” Jepsen said. “I think we had a step on the corner, and he never got the step back.”
Crete coach Chuck McGinnis said he didn't know which of the two big plays was worse for the Cardinals.
“I think they worked hand-in-hand,” McGinnis said. “We come away with no points — we knew we were fighting an uphill battle — and it's tough to keep it rolling at that point. A couple plays early turned the momentum, and we just never really seemed to regain it.”
Gretna added a field goal set up by a long interception return and a 19-yard scoring scamper by Connor Shedeed on its next two possessions to go up 17-0 in the opening minute of the second quarter.
The Dragons tacked on fourth-quarter touchdowns by Stoltenberg and Travis Agagah to put things away.
All five of Gretna's wins this season have come by at least three scores. Only a field goal two weeks ago against Norris stood between the Dragons and three straight shutouts.
The defense held Crete to 78 rushing yards on 35 attempts. It also came up with a pair of interceptions, a fumble recovery inside its own 20 and the big early stop.
Jepsen said his defense has that kind of potential when it's right.
“It's a matter of us doing our job, being sound with our technique. We're pretty good when we do that,” he said. “But when we have one person trying to do their own thing, or is undisciplined, we're as bad as anybody in the state.”
Gretna (5-0) ............................ 10 7 0 14—31
At Crete (3-2) ............................ 0 0 0 0— 0
G: Derek Templeman 96 pass from Nick Stoltenberg (Jay Gilman kick)
G: Gilman 25 FG
G: Connor Shedeed 19 run (Gilman kick)
G: Stoltenberg 25 run (Gilman kick)
G: Travis Agagah 13 run (Gilman kick)
RUSHING: G, Connor Shedeed 11-48, Nick Stoltenberg 5-49, Brady Radik 10-37, Tyler Ballard 10-37, Allon Johnson 4-13, Travis Agagah 8-43, Michael Johnson 1-3, Emmitt Knight 3-14, Team 2-minus 2. C, Hunter Poteet 13-36, Brandon Sieck 1-1, Vincent Thathcher 6-17, Daulton Stejskal 3-10, Jake Harms 4-2, Alex McGinnis 4-13, Max Smith 1-6, Brysen Mach 1-minus 10, Mitch Steinhoff 2-3.
PASSING: G, Stoltenberg 6-15-2 147. C, McGinnis 5-15-2 64, Brysen Mach 0-1-0 0.
RECEIVING: G, Derek Templeman 4-123, Gage Kirwan 2-24. C, Poteet 3-17, Josh Barber 1-12, Harms 1-35.