BURWELL, Neb. — Jase Williams’ senior class is one game away from returning to Memorial Stadium for its third Eight Man-1 state final.
Caleb Busch’s sophomore class is giving the old-timers a big boost while trying to reach Lincoln multiple times itself.
The two Burwell backs, behind a bruising offensive line, ran over Cambridge’s hopes for an undefeated season Tuesday on the semi-frozen tundra — OK, there was snow only in tire tracks — of Bob Price Field. Each Longhorn scored five touchdowns in the 71-48 quarterfinal win. Burwell (9-2) will host Dundy County-Stratton in Monday’s semifinals.
The Longhorns aren’t in the ratings, but they had been. They were No. 1 after their first three games, only to drop games to Elm Creek and Arcadia-Loup City, and came to the playoffs with a 6-2 record.
“We’ve come a long way with these guys,’’ Burwell coach Luke Gideon said. “There’s a lot of young kids, and a group of seniors who have been here before. We start six sophomores. In the middle of the season we couldn’t get over the hump a couple times.”
Williams said his team fed off the momentum of the 50-13 payback win against Elm Creek last week. Burwell won’t get the chance to avenge its other loss since Arcadia-Loup City lost 42-30 at Dundy County-Stratton.
The 215-pound back pounded away for 207 yards on 34 carries, pushing his season yardage to 1,499. It likely would be more but for a midseason illness that he couldn’t shake for a month. He played, but barely averaged 2 yards a carry over four games.
Busch doubled his season scoring and had a career-high 165 yards on 13 carries against Cambridge, which forced only one three-and-out and not until the fourth quarter.
“I can run up the middle, teams start keying on me and he can take one outside,’’ Williams said.
No. 4 Cambridge (10-1) racked up 555 yards as Paxton Ross threw for 415 and ran for 123. He’s the first player in state history to average more than 400 yards a game rushing and passing.
His favorite receiver, Deryk Huxoll, tied an eight-man state record and, by my stats and those of Dale Miller from the Grand Island Independent, came up a yard short of another.
Huxoll caught two touchdown passes for 28 this season, tying the record set by Ben Ideus of Lewiston in 2001 and tied by Ty Ottoson of Potter-Dix in 2011. He needed 178 yards to match Ideus’ season record of 1,826 and by our count got 177 on 12 grabs.
The Trojans trailed 30-26 at halftime, but gave up touchdowns to Williams and Busch to start the third quarter while in between turning the ball over on downs at their 37.
Burwell started eight possessions at midfield or closer, including one at the Cambridge 7 after the Trojans were flagged for two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties at the end of a failed fourth-down conversion. Also bogging down some scoring chances for Cambridge were 93 yards in penalties and six fumbles (one lost).
“We weren’t going to shut these guys out,’’ Gideon said.
Now Burwell is a game away from playing for its first state title since 2016. It lost to Creighton 32-30 last year.
Like a certain college team that comes to Lincoln on Saturday, the Longhorns are built for the last month of the season.
Says Gideon: “It’s November, it’s cold, and we have a good running game.”
At Burwell (9-2)…14/16/22/19--71
C: Paxton Ross 15 run (pass failed)
B: Jase Williams 6 run (Caleb Busch run)
B: Busch 3 run (run failed)
C: Deryk Huxoll 12 pass from Ross (Huxoll pass from Ross)
B: Williams 2 run (Busch run)
C: Huxoll 29 pass from Ross (pass failed)
B: Busch 34 run (Busch run)
C: Ross 1 run (pass failed)
B: Williams 20 run (run failed)
B: Busch 35 run (Busch run)
C: Ethan McArthur 38 pass from Ross (Dahlton Wood pass from Ross)
B: Williams 1 run (Williams run)
B: Busch 7 run (run failed)
B: Williams 4 run (run failed)
C: Ross 1 run (CJ Fiene pass from Ross)
B: Busch 37 run (Alex Gideon kick)
Rushing: C, Ross 26-123, Clayton Sayer 2-12, McArthur 1-3, Wyatt Ervin 1-2. B, Williams 34-207, Busch 13-165, Barak Birch 5-50, team 2-minus 4.
Passing: C, Ross 22-46-1 415. B, Birch 1-4-1 6.
Receiving: C, Huxoll 12-177, McArthur 4-79, CJ Fiene 3-68, Sayer 1-42, Wood 2-49. B, Corey Dawe 1-6.