LINCOLN — Caleb Francl and his senior teammates at Grand Island have their silver medals from last year.
But that wasn’t their team.
“We want it to be our year so it wasn’t like a lot of looking back at last year,” Francl said.
These Islanders are 1-up on last year.
They got a payback win Friday on Lincoln Southwest, beating the Silver Hawks 34-13 at Seacrest Field to be 7-1 compared to 6-2 in 2018.
“We’re not too fond (of Southwest) from what happened last year, so we wanted to come out and compete,” the running back and linebacker said.
Francl made sure Grand Island didn’t lose two in a row to Southwest. He scored on a wide-open 50-yard pass play from Carson Cahoy, ran for a touchdown, blocked an extra point, recovered a fumble, forced a fumble and had six solo tackles and four assists.
It was his best workout on offense all season. He’s played sparingly on that unit, Grand Island coach Jeff Tomlin said, after hurting an ankle in the 32-31 season-opening win.
“He makes everybody around him better,” Tomlin said. “He makes our offensive line (which has five new starters) better. Gavin Aken has done yeoman work in his spot and still continued to do a great job tonight, but Caleb has got vision that’s uncommon and toughness and runs behind his pads so he’s always going to get 3 or 4 yards.”
He and Cahoy each ran for 95 yards, with Francl getting 13 carries and Cahoy calling his own number 11 times. The senior quarterback’s big gainer was a 71-yard touchdown after Francl’s fumble recovery at the Islander 2 and his 27-yard run on the next play.
“That was a big turnaround,” Tomlin said. “Hats off to the defense for never saying die. We got the turnover, which is what we pride ourselves in. That was a very tight game up to that point.”
Southwest (4-4) had been averaging 103 yards a game passing but Laken Harnly went 20 of 32 for 271 yards — his career best had been 174. Grant McKinsey had another superlative night — eight catches, 158 yards — with a 71-yard touchdown pass play from Harnly.
But the Silver Hawks gave up nearly 400 yards to Grand Island. Cahoy was 8 of 15 for 170 yards.
This game was important to Grand Island starting the playoffs with a home game, which is where the Islanders’ run to their first state final since 1990 began last year with a win over favored Omaha North. So will be next Friday’s return to Seacrest to play 5-3 Lincoln East.
“I like our progress,” Tomlin said. “You got to take into account we had no returning starters on the offensive line. One returning starter on the defensive line. And we’re playing some young guys and we’re playing by committee because guys have been hurt, but they just keep scrapping, so I’m really proud of them.”
Grand Island (7-1).....................7 7 13 7—34
At Lincoln Southwest (4-4)...........0 0 6 7—13
GI: Caleb Francl 50 pass from Carson Cahoy (Braxton Mendez kick)
GI: Cahoy 71 run (Mendez kick)
GI: FG Mendez 23
LSW: Telo Arsiaga 14 run (kick blocked)
GI: FG Mendez 28
GI: Francl 4 run (Mendez kick)
LSW: Grant McKinsey 71 pass from Laken Harnly (Jackson Decker kick)
GI: Ace McKinnis 1 run (Mendez kick)
Rushing: GI, Francl 13-95, Cahoy 11-95, Gaven Aken 8-22, Daylon Keolavone 1-7, Broc Douglass 1-6, McKinnis 5-minus 5, team 1-minus 5. LSW, Harnly 19-26, Arsiaga 12-38, Jaden Wheeler 1-0
Passing: GI, Cahoy 8-15-0 170. LSW, Harnly 20-32-0 271.
Receiving: GI, Francl 4-83, Douglass 2-57, Aken 1-8, McKinnis 1-22. LSW, McKinsey 8-158, Nolan Milius 3-17, Dakota Harders 4-74, Arsiaga 2-13, Grant Miller 1-7, Wheeler 1-minus 2, Grant Buda 1-5.