Bellevue West is known as a quick-strike offense, but it was a grind-’em-out kind of drive that got the Thunderbirds going Friday night.
The top-ranked T-birds counted on a 14-play drive, with running back Jay Ducker carrying the ball nine times for 53 yards including the 2-yard score, to take an early lead on defending champion Omaha Burke. That lit the fire and Bellevue West pulled away for a 48-0 victory to advance to next week's semifinals. The T-birds will play second-ranked Millard West, which beat Elkhorn South 35-14.
"We don't have many 14-play drives, and that thing was like 82 yards (84)," said Bellevue West coach Michael Huffman. "We're really proud of our defense, too. For years, we've had a pretty stalwart offense. Our D-line is awful tough to run the ball against. The D-line is nasty, the linebackers run really well. The safety play has been great."
Two of Ducker's five touchdowns came from the wildcat formation near the goal line. He also had an-18-yard run on which he was untouched, and he caught a pair of TD passes from Nate Glantz. That brings his career total to 104 career touchdowns to tie Calvin Strong of Omaha North for the Class A record.
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"The first drive, we had a couple of little hiccups and didn't score, but it still was a good drive with a couple of first downs," Ducker said. "The second drive, the linemen and Nate Glantz got it rolling and we kept rolling with it."
Ducker finished with 24 carries for 159 yards rushing and two receptions for 38 yards.
"He's the best running back in the state for a reason," said Glantz. "We know when we give him the ball, we're very confident and once we gave it to him, he did what he does best and that's just get yards."
Ducker's performance came in a game billed as a matchup of Division I receivers between Zavier Betts of Bellevue West, who has committed to Nebraska, and Xavier Watts of Burke, who has committed to Notre Dame. Betts had four catches, including an 87-yard TD on a shovel pass. The T-bird defense double-teamed Watts most of the time and limited him to no receptions and just one rush for minus-3 yards.
"We gave Cruz Jurado some help covering Watts. We're not stupid. The kid is great, so why wouldn't you make them beat you left-handed," said Huffman. "We say all the time we don't care who gets the ball, we don't care who scores. It's who wears purple, and we all wear purple."