DWIGHT — Fireworks were shooting into the sky just seconds after the clock hit 0:00.
Almost an hour later, somewhere in Dwight, another quick round of fireworks hit the sky. East Butler was celebrating a spot in the Class D-1 final.
Behind the play of senior Camden Robley, who had three touchdown catches and two interceptions on defense, the No. 10 Tigers knocked off No. 1 and previously unbeaten Howells-Dodge 22-12 in the state football semifinals here on Monday. In the process, East Butler avenged a season-opening 26-20 loss to the Jaguars.
A week earlier, the Tigers (10-2) defeated No. 2 Creighton. Now they’re a victory away from winning their first state championship since 1989, when the Makovicka brothers were running wild in these parts.
East Butler will face South Loup in Monday's 10:15 a.m. state final at Memorial Stadium.
“There’s just a lot that goes into it,” East Butler coach Shawn Biltoft said. “There’s a lot of former players out here. A lot of family for these kids, and you know, there’s nothing better than saying we’re going to Memorial Stadium next week.”
— LJS Prep Extra (@PrepExtra) November 14, 2017
East Butler’s passing game has played a big part in this year’s run. The Tigers have senior tight end Trevor Havlovic, who is a big target for quarterback Dalton Bohac.
Howells-Dodge (11-1) kept Havlovic in check most of the night. But that opened things up for the Bohac-Robley connection. Robley caught seven passes for 161 yards.
“A lot of teams like to focus on Trevor and it leaves me open and (I) sneak behind the defense,” Robley said.
Robley hauled in a 51-yard touchdown three plays into the second quarter to break a scoreless tie, and he caught a 17-yard touchdown in the corner of the end zone just before halftime.
But Robley’s third touchdown catch was the biggest. The Tigers marched the second-half kickoff down the field and faced fourth-and-goal from the Howells-Dodge 20-yard line. Almost a mirror image of his second score, Robley secured Bohac’s pass in the same corner to push the lead to 22-0.
Howells-Dodge coach Mike Speirs said he was not surprised to see the Tigers throwing to Robley a lot.
“They go to them (Robley and Havlovic) both equally,” he said. “That’s what kind of makes them tough is a lot of times somebody has one good kid, like they have a big kid, but then to have that Robley kid on the other side … that makes it tough, at our level.”
Equally impressive was the play of the East Butler defense. The Tigers held Howells-Dodge to 126 total yards, including 59 on the ground. East Butler’s defenders were catching the Jaguars’ runners from behind quite often.
“We probably have the best line in (Class D-1), and they just get after up front and get a push on the ball,” Robley said. “They’re just really physical and tough.”
Howells-Dodge got to within two scores early in the fourth quarter, but Robley intercepted two passes in the final frame.
“Our kids are just resilient,” Biltoft said. “They play hard, they’re tough, we play a physical brand of football and that’s what we stayed with.”
EAST BUTLER 22, HOWELLS-DODGE 12
EB—Robley 51 pass from Bohac (pass failed)
EB—Robley 17 pass from Bohac (Robley pass)
EB—Robley 30 pass from Bohac (Havlovic pass)
HD—Horejsi 4 run (run failed)
HD—Yosten 17 pass from VanLengen (run failed)
RUSHING--HD, Horejsi 27-68, VanLengen 5-(minus) 2; 25-51; EB, Bohac 28-53, Wright 3-0, Rhynalds 1-5.
PASSING--VanLengen 8-18-2 67; EB, Bohac 11-22-0 185.
RECEIVING--HD, Yosten 3-25, Hegemann 2-16, Brichacek 3-30; EB, Robley 7-161, Havlovic 2-17, Rhynalds 3-22.
South Loup 34, Medicine Valley 14: The No. 5 Bobcats got a big lift from the legs of Jack Rush, who finished with four rushing touchdowns and 249 yards on the ground. South Loup had 24 first downs in the game, and 346 yards of total offense.
With South Loup trailing 14-6 late in the third quarter, Rush broke away for a 31-yard touchdown for his 41st rushing touchdown of the season. After a successful two-point conversion to tie the game, the Bobcats' running back punched it in from 1-yard out to give South Loup some breathing room.
Rush gave the Bobcats the lead for good with his third rushing touchdown of the night, with 57 seconds left in the game.
Leighton Bubak put the nail in the coffin with a pick six with 22 seconds remaining for the Bobcats, booking them a spot in the D-1 state final at Memorial Stadium.
SL--Rush 6 run (Rush run)
MV--Newcomb 50 pass from Heapy (Johnsen kick)
MV--Lenz 46 run (Johnsen kick)
SL--Rush 31 run (Bubak pass from Rush)
SL--Rush 1 run (Connel pass from Rush)
SL--Rush 1 run (pass failed)
SL--Bubak 30 interception return (run failed)