LINCOLN – The boys in the gold numbers, now wearing gold medals, began to chant “13-0.”

Then they motioned to their coach to take the state championship trophy.

“Here’s the real champion right here,’’ yelled senior lineman Dylan Sales.

Omaha Burke wanted this season, this win and this trophy for coach Paul Limongi, whose 2018 began with a diagnosis of tonsil cancer. For the school, which never had won a state football championship. For themselves, who had been so close to getting to Memorial Stadium last year. 1:44, to be exact.

“This whole season was dedicated to coach Limongi. I’m just so happy,’’ said quarterback Tyler Chadwick after engineering the 24-20 comeback win over gutty Grand Island before 5,667 on a chilly night.

Burke’s motto had been Unfinished Business after last year’s 29-28 semifinal loss to eventual champion and rival Omaha North, when the Vikings scored with 1:44 left.

Is 2017 all forgotten?

“One hundred percent,’’ Chadwick said. “We finished our business.”

At halftime and into the third quarter, trailing 14-3, you wondered what was up with the Bulldogs. They hadn’t caught a break. Nick Henrich hadn’t made it through the first quarter before the NU pledge reinjured his knee. They had a Hail Mary that wasn’t to end the half. They couldn’t score after getting the ball at the Islander 3 early in the third quarter.

But What’s Up? became Watts Up! Burke got back into the game with Chadwick’s strikes of 62 and 38 yards to junior Xavier Watts, the second giving the Bulldogs their first lead at 17-14.

“Our goals were no explosive plays and they got those two,’’ Islander coach Jeff Tomlin said.

Watts said he did a better job of running his routes after being encouraged by assistant coach Nick Bratt to stride better.

Said Chadwick: “I saw the safety come down and I know Xavier’s going to beat that corner every single time. He’s the best receiver in the state. I had a lot of trust in him and gave him the ball.”

Grand Island, which beat three top-six teams in Omaha North, Millard South and Bellevue West to get to its first final since 1990, regained the lead 20-17 on John Reilly’s second touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter.

Burke went to more of its stars — NU pledge Chris Hickman and fellow returning All-Nebraskan James Burks — on the go-ahead drive. Hickman had a 31-yard grab to the Islander 9 before Burks scored from the 7 on second-and-goal.

Burks needed 170 yards to get 2,000 for the season, a Burke first, and ended with 219.

“Burks ran really hard and I thought their offensive line was great the second half,’’ Tomlin said.

Grand Island’s ensuing possession wasn’t long. Burke 305-pound lineman Terrill Turner smothered a Cole Evans pass at the Islander 34 with 1:49 left.

“The ball came at me, I jumped up and it was in my hands,” Turner said. “I came down with it and I would have (returned it), but they already were on me.”

Getting the final first down took some work for Burke. They were in fourth-and-one inch before flagged for a false start. Chadwick and Watts avoided the turnover on downs by connecting for the 11th time, a 12-yarder that started the Bulldog celebration.

Omaha Burke (13-0)…,,,0  3  14  7 —24

Grand Island (10-3)…....7  7  0  6 — 20

GI: Caleb Francl 33 pass from Cole Evans (Keyin Wentling kick)

OB: FG Colin Campin 23

GI: John Reilly 18 run (Wentling kick)

OB: Xavier Watts 62 pass from Tyler Chadwick (kick blocked)

OB: Watts 38 pass from Chadwick (Watts pass from Chadwick)

GI: Reilly 1 run (kick blocked)

OB: James Burks 7 run (Campin kick)


Rushing: OB, Burks 39-219, Jaylon Roussell 2-3, Chadwick 7-minus 2, team 2-minus 3, Campin 1-minus 22. GI, Francl 8-63, Reilly 11-55, TImo Sikes 4-51, Evans 5-4, Carson Cahoy 1-minus 2, Matthew Jurgensmier 1-minus 9.

Passing: OB, Chadwick 17-24-0 238. GI, Evans 17-25-1 158.

Receiving: OB, Watts 11-159, Chris Hickman 3-63, Billy Kenedy 1-9, Michael Payne 1-4, Burks 1-3. GI, Sikes 6-34, Reilly 4-17, Francl 3-48, Broc Douglass 1-23, Evans 1-15, Ace McKinnis 1-14, Wentling 1-7.

Tackles (unassisted-assisted-total): OB, Gio Mainor 6-1-7, Kenedy 3-5-8, Watts 3-5-8, Austin Dougherty 3-4-7, Nick Henrich 3-1-4, Trevon Peak 2-2-4, Terrill Turner 1-4-5, Tonio Clark 1-4-5, Tyreece Wynne 2-1-3, Burks 2-1-3, Creighton Kimnach 2-0-2, Roussell 1-0-1, Hickman 0-2-2, Jaylon Starks 0-1-1, Hunter Jones 0-1-1. GI, Jack Wemhoff 7-6-13, Francl 3-11-14, Sam Sims 3-10-13, Alex Rodriguez 4-7-11, Wentling 4-5-9, Douglass 3-6-9, Kodjo Atikpohou 2-2-4, Jordan Hofeldt 0-6-6, Riley Krolikowski 2-1-3, McKinnis 2-1-3, Mateo Martinez 1-1-2, Blake Roudebusch 1-1-2, Breton Rivera 1-0-1, Reid Beilby 1-0-1, Sikes 1-0-1, Javier Cruz 0-1-1.

Fumble recoveries: none.

Interceptions: OB, Turner 1-1.

Sign up for daily headlines from NEPrepZone

Get a daily roundup of game recaps, player features and more in your inbox.

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.

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.

Load comments

You must be a full digital subscriber to read this article You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.