BELLEVUE — Grand Island braved freezing conditions to defeat No. 5 Bellevue West 37-30 on Friday and advance to its first Class A state football final since 1990.
Cole Evans' 20-yard touchdown pass to Caleb Francl on a fake field goal to end the first half gave the No. 10 Islanders a 27-19 lead. It also played a big role in keeping the momentum on the Islanders' side throughout the game.
“I told him (Coach Jeff Tomlin) to run it actually,” Evans said. “It was amazing it worked out. A great athlete just made a great play.”
The fake field goal wasn’t the only thing that got it done for the Islanders, though.
With less than three minutes to play, Grand Island converted three consecutive third downs to seal the win.
“It means a lot to our school,” Tomlin said. “I just feel really good for our kids and our school.”
The Islanders got off to a hot start, as Francl and John Reilly both had rushing touchdowns in the first quarter.
Francl led the Grand Island rushing attack with 94 yards.
“Our plan was to make him show us he could run the ball,” Bellevue West coach Mike Huffman said. “He quickly showed he could do that.”
Despite the hot start, the Thunderbirds fired back.
Evan Kieser found Zavier Betts in the back of the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown with 2:47 left in the first quarter. Then Jay Ducker scored on a 15-yard run in the second period.
Bellevue West missed both two-point conversion attempts, however, and the Islanders led 14-12.
“Getting ahead sure beat falling behind like we did the past few weeks,” Tomlin said. “Our kids really came to play and our offensive line established themselves off the bat.”
Even with the eight-point halftime deficit, Bellevue West stayed around.
Grand Island's Reilly fumbled on the first play from scrimmage in the second half, and two plays later, Ducker cashed in with a 24-yard touchdown run.
This time, Bellevue West converted the two-point conversion and the score was tied at 27.
The Islanders took over from there, marching 81 yards. The drive was capped by a 6-yard run by Timo Sikes.
The teams traded field goals in the fourth quarter, and Grand Island’s offense converted third downs in the final three minutes to put the game on ice.
“They were so good, especially on third-and-long,” Huffman said.
The Islanders' only state football title came in 1978. They'll get another shot Nov. 19 against top-ranked Omaha Burke at NU's Memorial Stadium.
Burke rallies to reach final
No. 1 Omaha Burke scored 14 points in the fourth quarter to rally for a 35-28 win against No. 9 Millard West on Friday at Burke Stadium.
The Bulldogs recovered a Millard West fumble with less than 1 minute remaining, and moments later, James Burks scored from three yards out for the winning score.
Burks scored on a 2-yard run to tie the game at 28-28.
GRAND ISLAND 37, BELLEVUE WEST 30
GI--Francl 6 run (Wentling kick)
GI--Reilly 29 run (Wentling kick)
BW--Betts 26 pass from Kieser (conversion failed)
BW--Ducker 15 run (conversion failed)
GI--Evans 5 run (Wentling kick)
BW--Ducker 4 run (Jurado kick)
GI--Francl 20 pass from Evans (kick blocked)
BW--Ducker 25 run (Chaney run)
GI--Sikes 6 run (Wentling kick)
GI--Wentling 22 FG
BW--Jurado 23 FG
RUSHING--GI, Reilly 11-84, Francl 21-94, Sikes 8-17, Evans 5-39, Krolikowski 1-3; BW, Kieser 10-58, Ducker 24-195, Chaney 3-6.
PASSING--GI, Evans 22-35-0 221; BW, Kieser 19-32-3 152.
RECEIVING--GI, Douglass 6-92, Reilly 3-18, Cahoy 8-43, Francl 3-57, Sikes 1-10, Wentling 1-1; BW, Sullivan 3-18, Ducker 4-10, Braun 3-16, Betts 5-69, Heims 1-7, Smith 3-32.
OMAHA BURKE 35, MILLARD WEST 28
OB--Wats 39 pass from Chadwick (Campin kick)
OB--Burks 71 score (Campin kick)
MW--Gomes 1 run (Fedde kick)
MW--Gomes 4 score (Fedde kick)
OB--Payne III 97 kickoff return (Campin kick)
MW--Beanum 80 pass from Gomes (Fedde kick)
MW--Gomes 1 score (Fedde kick)
OB--Burks 2 score (Campin kick)
OB--Burks 3 score (Capin kick)