BEEMER, Neb. — Neither another slow start against its rival nor an injury to its running back and middle linebacker kept West Point Guardian Angels Central Catholic from winning on Halloween night.
Three big-play touchdowns in the second half lifted the Bluejays past Howells-Dodge 40-34 in the Eight Man-1 second round at Beemer City Park.
Without injured Jared Minnick, who scored all three GACC touchdowns before halftime, sophomore quarterback Cody Steffen went 64 yards on the fourth snap of the second half, and threw to Jadyn Smeal for a 45-yard score. Then junior Noah Hass — Minnick’s replacement in the backfield — scored the tiebreaking touchdown early in the fourth quarter on a 29-yard jaunt.
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From there, each team had one possession in the remaining 10:53. Howells-Dodge’s turned over the ball on downs at the Jays 16 with 6:49 left, and GACC ran out the clock with four first downs.
“Quite frankly, we just got a little tougher,” Jays coach Dave Ridder said. “We needed to get a few stops, and on offense just needed to get some first downs and get the kids some confidence. Cody had a nice game and had a nice run to start the third quarter to get us going.”
Minnick hurt his right ankle, and Ridder said he’s unsure whether he will be ready for Tuesday’s quarterfinal at Exeter-Milligan/Friend.
There was a worse medical scare in the game. Howells-Dodge junior Trevor Schumacher was taken by ambulance to St. Francis Medical Center in West Point for observation after a possible neck injury late in the first quarter.
“That messes with your kids’ minds a little bit,” Jaguars coach Mike Speirs said, “but they regrouped and did a nice job.”
No. 9 Howells-Dodge (7-3), which led 22-0 in the regular season before the Jays won 34-26, had leads Wednesday of 14-0 and 20-6 as Dylan Horejsi scored from 56 yards on his team’s first play and got another touchdown in the opening period. The senior finished with 242 yards and four touchdowns on 32 carries.
Minnick, who ran for 75 yards and caught three passes for 37 yards for the No. 6 Jays (9-1), was hurt while tackling Horejsi late in the second quarter. On the next play, Horejsi took advantage of the middle linebacker’s departure to run 33 yards for a go-ahead touchdown.
Horejsi was shaken up himself on the Jaguars’ final drive — it was bad timing, coming on third down. Speirs said he called an option play for the first time in a night of sweep action.
“Actually one of the guys missed (the runner), and I thought they were going to get the first down,” Ridder said. “But coach (Matt) Schlaebitz had us in a nice defense where we slanted to that play and got a big stop.”
Howells-Dodge (7-3)........14 12 6 0—34
West Point GACC (9-1)......6 14 14 6—40
HD: Dylan Horejsi 56 run (Darrin Pokorny run)
HD: Horejsi 2 run (pass failed)
GA: Jared Minnick 2 run (run failed)
HD: Luke Rocheford 25 pass from Pokorny (run failed)
GA: Minnick 49 run (Jadyn Smeal pass from Cody Steffen)
GA: Minnick 10 pass from Steffen (pass failed)
HD: Horejsi 33 run (run failed)
GA: Steffen 64 run (run failed)
GA: Jadyn Smeal 45 pass from Steffen (Aaron Disher pass from Steffen)
HD: Horesji 2 run (Josh Brester run)
GA: Noah Hass 29 run (pass failed)
Falls City SH 60, Randolph 22
At Randolph in a matinee game, Eight Man-2 No. 4 Falls City Sacred Heart (9-1) brought the curtain down early with a 30-point, 258-yard first quarter.
Drew Bippes ran and threw for scores and threw for three 2-point conversions in the opening period. The senior finished with 114 yards rushing, and his 157 yards passing secured a 1,000-yard season.
“We did a good job of spreading things out and getting it to some of the athletes we have,” said Irish coach Doug Goltz after his 308th career win.
Randolph coach Mark Lech said the Irish had long fields, as he hoped, but his defense couldn’t get the stops. The Cardinals, who finished 7-3, didn’t get their first score until it was 38-0. Carter Schnoor threw to Austin Bermel for 11 yards.
Del Casteel had two touchdowns and 110 yards rushing for the Irish, who will host No. 3 Humphrey St. Francis (10-0) Tuesday at Jug Brown Stadium.
Falls City SH (9-1).......30 16 8 6—60
At Randolph (7-3)...........0 8 6 8—22
SH: Del Casteel 1 run (Jamie Stice pass from Drew Bippes)
SH: Stice 17 pass from Bippes (run failed)
SH: Jake Hoy 2 run (Austin Sells pass from Bippes)
SH: Bippes 33 run (Hoy pass from Bippes)
SH: Tyler Witt 11 pass from Bippes (Witt pass from Bippes)
R: Avery Bermel 11 pass from Carter Schnoor (Justin Haselhorst pass from Schnoor)
SH: Hoy 7 pass from Bippes (Casteel run)
SH: Casteel 5 run (Nicholas Keithley pass from Jakob Jordan)
R: Justin Haselhorst 8 run (run failed)
SH: Jack Fiegener 31 run (pass failed)
R: Caden Villwok 1 run (Haselhorst run)