Stymied for most of the first half, Grand Island scored 38 unanswered points to rally past defending Class A state champion Omaha North 38-24 on Friday night at Memorial Stadium.

The Class A No. 9 Islanders trailed 24-0 with 5:49 remaining in the second quarter and appeared well on their way to a fourth consecutive first-round playoff exit. Instead, the Islanders (8-2) responded with one of the biggest comebacks in school history.

“That’s a gritty football game right there,” Grand Island senior quarterback Cole Evans said. “There’s no quit in our team. We were down and scored 38 straight — there’s a lot of heart on this team.”

Evans completed 12 of 25 passes for 172 yards and three touchdowns to lead Grand Island, which finally got on the scoreboard with 2:09 remaining in the first half with a 40-yard pass from Evans to wide receiver Broc Douglass.

Evans also had an 8-yard scoring pass to running back John Reilly to cut No. 4 Omaha North’s lead to 24-14 92 seconds into the second half. Later, the Creighton baseball recruit hooked up with wide receiver Carson Cahoy on a 34-yard touchdown pass to trim the Islanders’ deficit to 24-21 with 6:05 to play in the third quarter.

After a 44-yard punt return by Douglass, Grand Island tied the score at 24-24 on a 33-yard field goal by Keyin Wentling with 5:11 left. A defensive stop gave the ball right back to the Islanders, who capped a 59-yard drive with Reilly’s 10-yard touchdown plunge for their first lead at 31-24 with 1:07 remaining.

Senior cornerback Kodjo Atikpohou put the icing on the cake with a 46-yard interception return with 45 seconds left to secure Grand Island’s first postseason win over the Vikings since 2009. Omaha North ended the Islanders’ season three consecutive years from 2013-2015 in the playoffs.

Despite losing senior running back Zander Gray, who came in having rushed for 1,535 yards and 20 TDs, to an apparent shoulder/elbow injury on their first series, the Vikings (6-4) barely missed a beat in the first half. LaVaughn Luellen rushed for 148 of his 173 yards in the first half and Jermaine Jones-Williams added 128 yards on 24 carries.

But even trailing 24-7 at halftime, Grand Island coach Jeff Tomlin said he was convinced the Islanders were still in the game.

“I just told our kids we knew they were working hard and I knew they were trying their best — we’re never going to question that out of these kids. But the fact of the matter is our tackling was extremely poor, we weren’t playing the cutback very well and we weren’t getting off blocks,” Tomlin said. “A lot of that is want-to stuff and a lot of that is will.

“We stunted a little more in the second half and put guys in position to make tackles for loss, but overall, it was just better tackling, taking care of the mental part of the game and the leadership of the seniors.”

Omaha North (6-4)...........17 7 0 0—24

At Grand Island (8-2).....0 7 14 17—38

ON: Treon Fairgood-Jones 5 run (Jared Venner kick)

ON: LaVaughn Luellen 2 run (Venner kick)

ON: FG 33 Venner

ON: Luellen 7 run (Venner kick)

GI: Broc Douglass 40 pass from Cole Evans (Keyin Wentling kick)

GI: John Reilly 8 pass from Evans (Wentling kick)

GI: Carson Cahoy 34 pass from Evans (Wentling kick)

GI: FG 33 Wentling

GI: Reilly 10 run (Wentling kick)

GI: Kodjo Atikpohou 46 interception return (Wentling kick)


Rushing: ON, Luellen 25-173, Jones-Williams 24-128, Foster 1-25, Gray 3-22, Fogelstrom 3-22, Barnes 1-2. GI, J.Reilly 18-52, Fracl 5-34, Atikpohou 2-18, T.Sikes 1-4, Evans 2-minus 12.

Passing: ON, Fogelstrom 7-21-1 128. GI, Evans 12-25-0 172.

Receiving: ON, Foster 4-34, Wesson 3-94. GI, Douglass 6-100, McKinnis 2-12, J.Reilly 2-12, Cahoy 1-34, Sextro 1-14.

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