Pospisil: Epic comeback for Grand Island caps surprising playoff night in Class A

Grand Island senior running back John Reilly gives a stiff arm to an Omaha North player Friday night at Memorial Stadium. Grand Island trailed the defending-champion Vikings 24-0 midway through the second quarter but won 38-24.

Omaha North and Lincoln High didn’t make it to Halloween. Bellevue West barely did.

By West escaping with a 17-10 home win over Kearney, all four top seeds in Class A — Omaha Burke, Millard South, West and Omaha Westside — will be playing in Friday’s semifinals.

North’s state title defense ended on the greatest comeback in a Class A playoff game. Grand Island trailed the visiting Vikings 24-0 midway through the second quarter but won 38-24.

The key play to me was the Islanders’ goal-line stand, stopping LaVaughn Luellen at the 3, to end the first half. Had they fallen behind by 24 again, would that have been too deflating?

Yes, North was down for a while to Luellen at running back after returning All-Nebraskan Zander Gray went out with an arm injury in the first quarter and Treon Fairgood-Jones needed a second-half break. But the Islanders had their walking wounded, including quarterback Cole Evans and linebacker Sam Sims.

“My buddy Sam Sims, he’s got a bum ankle, too, and we both just said that we weren’t coming out of the game unless we were on a stretcher,” Evans told reporters. “There’s no way they were going to keep us off that field tonight.”

Lincoln High went 15-5 the past two seasons, but each year went “South” at the end. The Links’ 27-24 home loss Friday to Elkhorn South, when their potent offense went scoreless in the second half, followed last year’s first-round setback to Millard South.

It was a disappointing way for the seniors who brought Lincoln High back to prominence for the first time in a quarter-century to leave. Conversely, the Elkhorn South win in the Storm’s first year in Class A is evidence that the best of the old 32-team Class B could play with most large-school teams.

Back to Bellevue West, which had offensive problems against Kearney two weeks after Lincoln High hung 66 on the Bearcats. A 2-0 halftime lead?

Tied 10-10 with a little more than a minute left, the Thunderbirds sprung Jay Ducker on second-and-20 for a 68-yard gain to the 2. He scored on the next play. He had 210 of West’s 372 yards.

West’s home game Friday with Elkhorn South is one of two rematches from the regular season in the Class A quarterfinals. West won 38-3 earlier. The other rematch is Lincoln Southeast returning to Burke, which opened the season with a 49-28 win over the Knights.

Westside hosts Millard West and Millard South hosts Grand Island in the other Class A games.

Half of Class B’s quarterfinals are rematches, too, with Blair visiting undefeated Omaha Skutt and York hosting Seward three weeks after ekeing out a 42-40 road win. The other two matchups send Waverly to McCook and Omaha Roncalli to Scottsbluff.

Class C-1’s epicenter of action will be Saunders County, with two games in Wahoo and one in Ashland. Adams Central visits Wahoo, Pierce visits Wahoo Neumann and Ord pays a call to Ashland-Greenwood. Aurora hosts Gothenburg.

Records galore

Wilcox-Hildreth is the first team to score 100 in a playoff game. It got there in the third quarter of a 100-56 win over Creek Valley in Six Man that set another record for combined scoring. Norfolk Catholic’s 77-32 win over Fremont Bergan set C-2 playoff records for combined scoring and most points by one team. It also was Catholic’s school record.

The Knights’ Dylan Kautz set a C-1 playoff rushing record with his 357 yards. Ephroen Lovato of Minatare matched that feat in Six Man with 390 yards in an 81-20 win over Walthill. Blair’s Quincy Nichols got the Class B single-game playoff record for receiving yards in a game with 240 against Northwest. 

Passers and more receivers did well, too. Breaking their class records with six touchdown passes were Baylor Scheierman of Aurora in C-1 in a 61-6 win over Arlington and Austin Endorf of North Bend in C-2 in a 47-39 loss to Wilber-Clatonia. Stewart Cemer of Blair tied the B standard with five. Catching four touchdown passes for the C-2 record was Lucas Vogt of Bancroft-Rosalie/Lyons-Decatur in a 56-39 win over Freeman and three TD grabs by Michael Heig of Ralston in a 69-21 loss at Scottsbluff tied the Class B mark.

All-state forms

An email Monday morning with The World-Herald’s all-state football nomination form will go out to all varsity coaches. Coaches who don’t receive one by noon should email stu.pospisil@owh.com.

Ratings comments

Top 10/Class A: North and Lincoln High tumble from fourth to eighth and second to ninth, respectively. They stay ahead of Southeast, however, which edged Lincoln Southwest 14-10 a week after Lincoln High beat the Silver Hawks 43-3. North beat the Knights 6-0 in midseason. Class B: The first round went to form, down to No. 8 Blair beating No. 9 Grand Island Northwest 54-52 in overtime. Class C-1: Ashland-Greenwood’s 31-14 win over Lincoln Lutheran, a reversal of the Warriors’ 26-21 win the week before, pushes the Jays up to eighth and drops Lutheran from eighth to 10th. Class C-2: Shelby-Rising City returns for the present at No. 10. It had the closest, the oddest and the most heartbreaking loss of the first round. Tied 22-22 with undefeated No. 4 Oakland-Craig with seven seconds left in regulation, the Huskies snapped the ball over the punter’s head and the Knights recovered it in the end zone for a 28-22 win. Eight Man-1: Previous No. 2 BDS, playing without injured quarterback John Christensen, lost 36-22 to then-.500 Osceola-High Plains (which had a top player out with an injury for three of its losses). BDS exits and Hemingford, winner of six straight after a 0-3 start, is the new No. 10. Eight Man-2 and Six Man: Both first rounds went to form.

Reporter - High school sports

Stu is The World-Herald's lead writer for high school sports and for golf. Follow him on Twitter @stuOWH. Phone: 402-444-1041.

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