Coming into their showdown Thursday with fourth-ranked Johnson-Brock, Class D-2 No. 2 Falls City Sacred Heart’s football team had not played a team with a record above .500.
With a 6-1 mark entering Week 9, Johnson-Brock got the Irish’s full attention in the final regular-season game for both teams, and Sacred Heart coach Doug Goltz liked what he saw in the final tuneup before the playoffs begin this Thursday.
The Irish controlled things up front and rushed for 383 yards in a 54-14 victory that closed out an 8-0 regular season.
“I thought our kids were really ready to play,” said Goltz, who has guided the Irish to 33 straight playoff appearances and eight state championships. “I liked our focus, we played well and we beat a quality football team.”
Getting the Irish starters meaningful playing time since a 54-26 win at Lawrence-Nelson was difficult until this past week. They were generally on the sidelines by the second quarter, letting the reserves finish up lopsided victories over Omaha Christian Academy (54-6), Meridian (53-14), Parkview Christian (59-14), Diller-Odell (67-8) and Pawnee City (50-6).
Sacred Heart will have a rematch against Diller-Odell (3-5) in the first round of the playoffs.
Running back Jake Hoy had just 35 carries all season coming into the season finale, but the 5-foot-11, 165-pound senior got more work against the defending state champion Eagles with 12 attempts for 181 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
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“I like these games a lot more than playing teams where we’re up 40 in the first half and the starters are out of the game by the second quarter,” said Hoy, who has a team-high 527 yards on the ground and 15 touchdowns.
“It was good to see how we’d play in a big game against a good team.”
Without challenges in games, the Irish have been using intense, physical practices as a substitute to stay sharp and prepare for high-stakes games in November.
With 31 players on the squad, “that allows us to scrimmage and get after it in practice,” Hoy said. “When we go best on best, that’s sometimes tougher than a game.”
Junior all-state linebacker Del Casteel (6-0, 195) appears fully healed from a preseason knee injury suffered during a boating mishap in late summer. He had 21 carries for 115 yards and three TDs against Johnson-Brock, running behind the physical offensive line of senior center Sloan Lenard (6-2, 250) and a trio of guards — senior Branson Darveau (6-1, 205), junior Kyle Bauman (6-1, 195) and sophomore Brogan Nachtigal (6-1, 190).
Darveau leads the team in overall tackles (88) as well as stops behind the line of scrimmage (17).
Hoy is also Sacred Heart’s top receiver with 16 catches for 198 yards and a pair of touchdowns, the favorite target of sophomore quarterback Jakob Jordan, who has thrown for 523 yards and seven TDs this season.
The ends — seniors Jarrot Simon and Tyler Witt — have combined for 18 catches for 285 yards and eight touchdowns. The 6-3 Witt, an all-state basketball player, has battled a nagging ankle problem this fall, the same ankle he injured during the boys state basketball tournament in March.
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