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Falls City Sacred Heart vs. Johnson-Brock, 10.18.18

Johnson-Brock's Dylan Rowe (15) celebrates a fourth-quarter touchdown run with teammate Shane Westhart (4) on Oct. 18 at Johnson-Brock High School. 

Johnson-Brock's appearance in the Class D-2 state football championship game was solidified on the frigid field turf Monday in Humphrey.

It was there the Eagles earned a hard-fought 58-44 win against Humphrey St. Francis in the eight-man semifinals.

The journey, however, was put into motion this past summer on the sandy lake shores of Kirkmans Cove, south of Johnson.

"We'd do a lot of agility training (on the sand) for an hour," Eagles running back Dylan Rowe said. "After that, we'd swim around and just have fun with our guys."

One of six seniors, Rowe said he saw the summer workouts paying off during the season. The results are showing on paper, too. The Eagles' up-tempo, spread offense is averaging 66.7 points and 388.5 yards per game, and the team has been able to put a lot of foes away quickly.

"During the year, it looked like we were having a lot more fun and we were a lot more focused," Rowe said.

The top-ranked Eagles (12-0) are hoping warm summer adventures translate into a state championship victory in late fall. They'll play fifth-ranked Mullen (12-0) at 2:15 p.m. Monday at Memorial Stadium.

Like Mullen, Johnson-Brock will roll into Lincoln with a lot of momentum. The Eagles got a taste of a deep playoff run last year, reaching the Class D-1 state quarterfinals despite some key injuries. That included Rowe, who suffered a season-ending leg injury four games into the season.

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"We knew we had a good team," Johnson-Brock coach Mitch Roberts said of 2017. "Two guys went down, and that can kind of change some things. Confidencewise for our kids, I think it just showed them that we do belong up there with some of the better teams in the state."

So the Eagles went to work in the offseason. Roberts said weight-room attendance was up, and the players were putting in extra hours on their own time. Leading the charge were the team's six seniors — Rowe, Caleb Fossenbarger, Hunter Oestmann, Shane Westhart, Wyatt Volker and Seth Moerer.

"They were the ones calling guys to get them to the weight room, making sure they were up in the morning, getting them there at night," Roberts said. "Those guys played a huge role in getting everybody involved, from our incoming freshmen to our juniors."

Kirkmans Cove was a starting point. Now the Eagles are hoping Memorial Stadium provides the finishing touch.

"Ever since our first practice, it's always been said, 'We want to get to the state championship,' and it's what we work for every week," said Rowe, who leads the team in rushing (553 yards) and has 31 catches for 539 yards.

Said Roberts, "It's been fun to see the kids come to practice (this week). They're not satisfied with getting there, we definitely want to pick up a win and bring home the championship."

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2639 or cgrell@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsGrell.

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