This week, I went to Bellevue to check out the Bellevue West Thunderbirds hosting the Grand Island Islanders for a chance to go to Lincoln and play for the state championship. It was a well-played game but Grand Island continued its run, winning 37-30. The Islanders will now take on the No. 1 ranked Omaha Burke Bulldogs for the Class A championship.
Here are my thoughts on the game.
Playing to win
It was clear from the start of this game that Grand Island was ready to play. The Islanders were engaged and fired up from start to finish. Coach Jeff Tomlin called an aggressive game as well. The fake field goal at the end of first half to give the Islanders a 27-19 lead at half was a tremendous play call.
Balanced attack for Islanders
Cole Evans threw the ball well in the cold and did a nice job of picking his spots to run the ball as well. Evans had no turnovers in the game and was steady all night long. The zone read game was working for Grand Island consistently through the matchup. Junior running back Caleb Francl ran hard totaling 86 yards on the ground. Senior John Riley also chipped in 98 rushing yards.
Grand Island's never quit attitude
Grand Island did a nice job during this game of limiting the big plays of an explosive Bellevue West offense. They also answered every time the Thunderbirds made a run showing the grit that got them to the semi final game. You have to tip your cap to the Islanders for going on the road and winning a good hard-fought football game.
Ducker injury loomed large
Junior running back Jay Ducker was running well through three quarters with 196 yards and 23 carries before an ankle injury slowed him down. He returned to the game but didn’t get much going after getting back into the action. We will hear a lot from him next season though as he will look to power the Thunderbirds attack alongside Zavier Betts.
Clean football game
Whenever the temperature is under 20 degrees and there is snow on the ground, there is a chance the football game can get sloppy. That wasn’t the case in this Class A semifinal matchup. There were very few penalties and turnovers which is a testament to how well both teams are coached. Grand Island will need to continue playing mistake-free football as the team takes on undefeated Omaha Burke for the state championship.
Greg is the Recruiting Analyst for Hail Varsity and has covered Husker athletics since 2013. He has always had a passion for sports while growing up in the Chicago area. As he got older and had to hang up his cleats and sneakers, he realized his passion for sports went beyond just watching and attending games. He has covered many events from the Rose Bowl to championship boxing matches. If he’s not talking sports, he’s hovering over his grill. He is married to an amazing woman, Kim, and they have a dog that barks when Greg yells at the TV during games.