Lincoln Southeast’s defense stymied the Creighton Prep offense for 2½ quarters Friday night at Seacrest Field.
But when the Junior Jays’ attack came to life in the fourth quarter, Southeast’s offense made just enough plays to survive the onslaught.
Quarterback McGinness Schneider threw two touchdown passes to help the Class A No. 5 Knights build a 21-point third-quarter lead. It ended up being just enough for them to withstand a furious fourth-quarter rally by the No. 7 Junior Jays in claiming a 24-21 high school football victory.
“We found a way to get it done,” Southeast coach Ryan Gottula said after the Knights improved to 4-0. “I’m proud of the guys. They made plays when they had to. I thought we contributed across the board.”
The Southeast defense limited Creighton Prep to just one first down and 40 total yards in the first half and created two turnovers that led to the Knights’ 14-0 lead at intermission.
On the Junior Jays’ second possession of the game, the Knights’ David Swanson intercepted a pass that went through a receiver’s hands and raced 59 yards to the end zone.
Southeast’s second TD came with 10:08 left in the second when Derek Branch beat the Creighton Prep defenders to the corner of the end zone to haul in a 24-yard scoring pass from Schneider.
A fumble recovery by Southeast’s Barrett France at the Prep 22 came two plays before the TD pass.
Southeast had a touchdown taken off the board on the first play of the second quarter when running back Max Buettenback hit Jake Appletget with a 49-yard TD pass off a halfback pass, only to have the Knights get penalized for an ineligible receiver down field.
Buettenback, a sophomore Nebraska baseball recruit, rushed for 118 yards on 22 carries.
“Our defense has been very good at producing turnovers and then the offense converting those,” Gottula said. “It would’ve been nice to have that extra score in the first half, and to have that called back shifted momentum a little at that point.”
Southeast made it 21-0 midway through the third quarter with Schneider’s second TD pass — a 17-yarder on third-and-goal when Appleget snagged a pass over the middle with one hand, then broke a pair of tackles on his way to the end zone.
But Creighton Prep also found the end zone in the third quarter with the help of a Southeast turnover, and that score seemed to wake up the Prep offense. The Junior Jays’ Michael Barrett hopped on a Southeast muffed punt at the Knights’ 23, and on the next play, Sam Meysenburg found Alex Bullock for a TD pass to cut the lead to 21-6 with 2:36 left in the period.
The Jays narrowed the deficit to eight points on their next possession when Meysenburg completed six straight passes, the last one going to Nebraska tight end recruit AJ Rollins for a 7-yard TD pass with 10:49 left in the game.
Meysenburg completed his final 10 passes and finished by connecting on 12 of his last 13 throws for 161 yards after throwing for just 25 yards in the first half.
“We were inept offensively the first half, but I was so proud of our kids, the way they fought,” said Creighton Prep coach Tim Johnk, whose team was unable to play top-ranked Bellevue West because they were in COVID-19 quarantine. “We have some very resilient kids, they played their tails off and put ourselves in a position to win it on the road against a very good football team.”
Southeast answered with a 24-yard field goal by Nate McCashland to push the lead to 24-13 with 7:13 remaining in the game, which was set up by a jump pass from Appleget to Lance Hasselgesser for 42 yards off a fake punt.
Creighton Prep scored on its second straight possession of the fourth quarter on a 14-yard pass from Meysenburg to Bullock. A Meysenburg run on the two-point conversion cut Southeast’s lead to the final 24-21 tally with 5:13 remaining.
Bullock finished with nine catches for 123 yards along with the two TDs.
The Knights were able to run out the remaining time as they marched from their own 28 to the Creighton Prep 6. Buettenback rushed for 41 yards in the drive and also caught a 13-yard pass. Schneider also connected with Taveon Thompson for a 21-yard pass on a third-and-6.
Southeast was without senior running back Nigel Bridger, who rushed for 174 yards in last week’s win over Grand Island. Gottula declined to give a reason for Bridger’s absence, saying only that he “was unavailable.”