KEARNEY, Neb. — Kearney kicker Gabe Heins knew what he had to do with two seconds left in the game Friday at UNK’s Foster Field.
Heins, who had already missed two extra points, prayed with a teammate just before trotting onto the field.
“We asked God to take away my anxiety,” Heins said. “That helped so much.”
After Omaha Creighton Prep coach Tim Johnk burned his final two timeouts, the game — and a berth in the Class A finals — fell on Heins’ right foot.
The snap was perfect, the hold was perfect and the kick was perfect, splitting the uprights and sending an estimated 6,000 into a frenzy.
But the winning field goal doesn’t happen without Kearney’s two-minute offense.
Prep had taken a 23-22 lead with 2:42 left, as Junior Jay quarterback Sam Bonebrake scored on a 1-yard plunge. Prep went for 2, but the Bearcat defense held.
With their season hanging in the balance, the Bearcats (12-0) needed to deliver.
Facing a second-and-8, Kearney quarterback Kanon Koster connected with Thad Huber for a gain of 20. Four plays later, Koster found Bret Obermiller streaking down the far sideline for 29 yards.
After Koster inched the Bearcats closer to the end zone with a 7-yard run, Kearney coach Brandon Cool called time out, with two seconds left, setting up Heins’ 27-yard winning field goal.
“That was a tremendous drive,” Cool said. “You had 2:42 left on the clock, and I go ‘Guys, you’ve got plenty of time here, if we could just get a couple big plays, we’re going to get Gabe within striking distance to kick a field goal.’”
Like they’ve done all postseason, the Junior Jays didn’t go away quietly. Prep, which beat Grand Island with a last-second field goal in the first round, came roaring back in the second half, scoring 20 points on a Kearney defense that’s held opponents to 8.1 a game.
“We got down, but we battled back,” Prep coach Tim Johnk said. “You’ve got to give our kids credit for battling back. ... That’s a great football team Kearney has.”
The comeback started on the Junior Jays’ first possession of the second half.
Trailing 16-3, Creighton Prep went on a 16-play, 80-yard drive capped by fullback Luke Sims’ 6-yard run.
After forcing Kearney to punt, the Junior Jays again called on Sims to find the end zone. This time it was a 5-yard burst up the gut, and it gave Prep its first lead of the game.
Sims carried the ball 19 times for 117 yards in the second half.
Kearney will face Omaha North in the Class A championship game on Nov. 21 at Memorial Stadium.
When asked if it had sunk in yet that his team had made it to the finals, Cool said: “Nope, I think it will sink tomorrow.”
Om. Creighton Pres (9-3)......3 0 14 6—23
At Kearney (12-0).................9 7 0 9—25
CP: Noah Strako 30 FG
K: Isaiah Stalbird 23 pass from Miko Maessner (Gabe Heins miss)
K: Heins 38 FG
K: Kanon Koster 1 run (Heins kick)
CP: Luke Sims 6 run (Strako kick)
CP: Luke Sims 5 run (Strako kick)
K: Maessner 8 run (Heins miss)
CP: Sam Bonebrake 1 run (2-pt failed)
K: Heins 27 FG