MULLEN, Neb. — While not a true frozen-tundra game, Tuesday’s Eight Man-2 quarterfinal between Mullen and Lawrence-Nelson was an unexpected early taste of winter for this easterner.
Two inches of snow fell starting two hours before kickoff on Mullen’s picturesque field in the pines. Volunteers shoveled the field — they already had taken off the overnight snowfall — while the teams went through warmups.
Aside from one end zone play when both defender and receiver slipped, the footing was no issue. Only flurries fell during the game.
But it was a day meant for power running, and few in Eight Man-2 do it as well or as long as Mullen. Now the Broncos are on their second generation of workhorse running backs.
In the Broncos’ 36-18 win over Lawrence-Nelson, junior Lane Edis ran for 278 yards and three touchdowns on 38 carries. His father, Wade, in the last Mullen home game I covered, ran for 339 yards and three touchdowns on 48 carries in the 1990 Eight Man-1 final for Mullen’s first state football title.
Edis, who’s about 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, has 2,143 yards and 50 total touchdowns in 11 games. And he wasn’t healthy to start the year. He broke his hand in a summer basketball tournament for small-school players at Cedar Rapids.
“I was ready to go the first game, but I had to wear a big ol’ club on my arm for the first four games,” Edis said.
Mullen coach Mitch Pfeiffer said it’s hard not to rely on him.
“He’s a good, dependable back,” the coach said. “He makes some decisions I think make my hair a little grayer, but overall he’s a pretty talented kid.”
Blocking for Edis are Colton Hendrix, Tell Spies and Kayden Licking, with Koby Walker, Zachary Sweet and Luke Christen providing the perimeter seals.
Lawrence-Nelson (8-3 and unranked) got to the quarterfinals without its best player. Running back Kevin Schroer had a season-ending injury against Giltner on Sept. 22.
“There was adversity they had to deal with over the course of the season,’’ Raiders coach Brian Blevins said. “We had kids step up all over the field, and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
His team never led Tuesday but never trailed by more than two scores until the final minute. Quarterback Lane Heikkinen ran and threw for scores while accounting for 237 yards of total offense.
Mullen kept the Raiders from a tying score in the third quarter. Trailing 18-12, they got to the Broncos’ 2 before Edis on third down and Clayton Hassett on fourth down had tackles for 1-yard losses.
Then the Broncos achieved the two-score swing as they went 76 yards in nine plays to make it 24-12 with 3:11 left in the quarter. Edis got 40 on a third-and-5 from the Mullen 9.
“Props to Mullen’s defense,” Blevins said. “Especially when you get to the playoffs, you’re going to win some plays and you’re going to lose some plays, and they found a really good time to win a couple.”
Heikkinen connected in the end zone with Peyton Drudik from 9 yards on the next Raiders possession, but Mullen got the score back on quarterback Brady Gracey’s 1-yard sneak. Fullback Matthew Stichka’s 8-yard touchdown with 48 seconds left ended the scoring.
Blevins faced Mullen while coaching Stapleton, and there’s little different about the Broncos from what he remembers.
“They’re just big and physical. We expected that,” he said. “They have some good size and they kind of wore on us. We’re not the biggest team, and especially on the offensive line it wore on us. They made some plays and were able to control the clock.”
Lawrence-Nelson (8-3)......6 6 0 6—18
At Mullen (11-0)...............8 10 6 12—36
M: Lane Edis 9 run (Edis run)
LN: Lane Heikkinen 25 run (run failed)
M: Edis 52 run (Zachary Sweet pass from Brady Gracey)
LN: Hekkinen 3 run (PAT failed)
M: Safety, Tell Spies tackled Heikkinen in end zone
M: Edis 7 run (pass failed)
LN: Peyton Drudik 9 pass from Heikkinen (pass failed)
M: Gracey 1 run (run failed)
M: Matthew Stichka 8 run (pass failed)
Rushing: LN, Heikkinen 22-62, Jacob Sharp 6-30, Svoboda 2-5. M, Edis 38-278, Stichka 16-67, Sweet 2-10, Gracey 2-11, Justin Wiens 1-3.
Passing: LN, Heikkinen 12-18-1 175, Drudik 0-1-0 0. M, Gracey 0-4-1.
Receiving: LN, Drudik 8-117, Boone Svoboda 2-29, Anders Jensen 1-16, Micah Dolnicek 1-13. M, none.