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.
“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)
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.
Interceptions: OB, Turner 1-1.
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Omaha Burke defeated Grand Island 24-20 to cap an undefeated season and win the Bulldogs' first Class A state football championship.
Class B: Omaha Skutt, 48, Scottsbluff 27
Class C-1: Aurora 49, Ord 7
Class C-2: Centennial 29, Norfolk Catholic 28 (OT)
Class D-1: Creighton 32, Burwell 30
Class D-2: Johnson-Brock 56, Mullen 26
Omaha North defeated Kearney 27-20 in 2017 to cap a 12-1 season and win the Vikings' third Class A title in the past five seasons.
Class B: York 31, Omaha Skutt 0
Class C-1: Norfolk Catholic 35, Boone Central/Newman Grove 0
Class C-2: Yutan 27, Centennial 6
Class D-1: East Butler 36, South Loup 14
Class D-2: Bruning-Davenport/Shickley 58, Blue Hill 23
Led by future Husker Jaylin Bradley's five touchdowns, Bellevue West defeated Omaha North 43-6 to win the 2016 Class A title.
Class B: Elkhorn South 34, Omaha Skutt 32
Class C-1: O'Neill 39, Wahoo Neumann 22
Class C-2: Wilber-Clatonia 20, Crofton 0
Class D-1: Burwell 47, West Point GACC 18
Class D-2: Falls City Sacred Heart 44, Twin Loup 28
Millard North defeated Millard West 21-14 to win the 2015 Class A title and earn the Mustangs their fifth championship since 2003.
Class B: Elkhorn South 32, Aurora 21
Class C-1: Columbus Scotus 32, Norfolk Catholic 27
Class C-2: David City Aquinas 36, Oakland-Craig 7
Class D-1: Bruning-Davenport/Shickley 44, Burwell 30
Class D-2: Humphrey St. Francis 22, Chambers/Wheeler Central 20
Omaha North won back-to-back titles by defeating Omaha Creighton Prep 41-0 in the 2014 Class A championship.
Class B: Omaha Skutt 40, Elkhorn 10
Class C-1: Boone Central/Newman Grove 54, Ashland-Greenwood 14
Class C-2: David City Aquinas 40, Hartington Cedar Catholic 6
Class D-1: Hemingford 52, Bruning-Davenport/Shickley 8
Class D-2: Exeter-Milligan 40, Anselmo-Merna 26
Omaha North defeated Omaha Westside 23-21 to win the 2013 Class A title.
Class B: Omaha Skutt 30, York 0
Class C-1: Cozad 47, Ashland-Greenwood 21
Class C-2: Doniphan-Trumbull 32, David City Aquinas (10-3) 13
Class D-1: Exeter-Milligan 20, Hemingford 18
Class D-2: Falls City Sacred Heart 63, Stuart 14
Millard North defeated Omaha North 17-14 to win the 2012 Class A championship and cap an undefeated season.
Class B: Omaha Gross 14, Norris 7
Class C-1: Norfolk Catholic 24, Boone Central/Newman Grove 13
Class C-2: David City Aquinas 35, Sutton 20
Class D-1: Elgin Public/Pope John 40, Exeter-Milligan 14
Class D-2: Giltner 42, Humphrey St. Francis 26
In 2011, Lincoln Southeast defeated Omaha Burke 21-9 to win the Class A championship. The Knights claimed their first title since 2002.
Class B: Elkhorn 26, Crete 17
Class C-1: Norfolk Catholic 20, Platteview 6
Class C-2: David City Aquinas 27, Kearney Catholic 13
Class D-1: Elgin Public/Pope John 44, West Point GACC 14
Class D-2: Sargent 21, Howells 18
Millard North defeated Millard South 28-20 to win the 2010 Class A title.
Class B: Crete 34, Elkhorn 0
Class C-1: Norfolk Catholic 28, Pierce 13
Class C-2: Hastings St. Cecilia 17, Fremont Bergan 14
Class D-1: West Point GACC 45, Creighton 30
Class D-2: Howells 46, Sargent 7
Millard South's Tyler Harris his onside kickoff return for a touchdown in the Patriots' 45-17 win over Millard West in the 2009 Class A championship.
Class B: Aurora 34, Omaha Skutt 21
Class C-1: Hastings St. Cecilia 26, Norfolk Catholic 18
Class C-2: Ponca 14, Hartington Cedar Catholic 13, OT
Class D-1: Howells 68, Giltner 28
Class D-2: Humphrey St. Francis 34, Hayes Center 0
Millard West celebrates defeating Millard South 21-8 to win the 2008 Class A title.
Class B: Aurora 20, Beatrice 14
Class C-1: Pierce 20, Boys Town 10
Class C-2: Blue Hill 14, Fremont Bergan 0
Class D-1: Howells 46, Axtell 21
Class D-2: Ewing 49, Humphrey St. Francis 24
Omaha Central coach Jay Ball celebrates the Eagles' 26-21 win over Millard North in the 2007 Class A championship.
Class B: Crete 14, McCook 7, OT
Class C-1: Pierce 34, Wahoo Neumann 28, OT
Class C-2: Wakefield 19, Blue Hill 0
Class D-1: Pope John 39, Clarkson 30
Class D-2: Chambers 28, Elgin 24
Kearney's EJ Gannon celebrates with fans after winning the 2006 state title against Omaha Westside, 41-21.
Class B: Crete 28, Elkhorn 14
Class C-1: Auburn 28, Valentine 27, 2OT
Class C-2: Wakefield 34, Blue Hill 7
Class D-1: Overton 32, Bancroft-Rosalie 8
Class D-2: Dodge 28, Stapleton 20
Millard North huddles around the trophy after defeating Lincoln Southwest 35-14 to win the 2005 Class A championship.
Class B: Omaha Skutt 6, McCook 0
Class C-1: Norfolk Catholic 20, Chase County 13
Class C-2: Plainview 21, Cambridge 6
Class D-1: Howells 46, Axtell 6
Class D-2: Bruning-Davenport 34, Sargent 12
Omaha Creighton Prep coach Tom Jaworski cheers after defeating Millard North 21-7 to win the 2004 Class A title.
Class B: Lincoln Pius X 14, McCook 9
Class C-1: Norfolk Catholic 26, Boone Central 13
Class C-2: North Platte St. Patrick’s 21, Stanton 6
Class D-1: Howells 43, Overton 6
Class D-2: Lindsay Holy Family 36, Mullen 18