The theme for Omaha Burke this season was “unfinished business.” On Monday night, the Bulldogs finished their season off with a 24-20 victory over Grand Island to capture the first state championship in school history. Burke finished the season with a perfect 13-0 record.
It was a tough start to the game for the Bulldogs as they found themselves down 14-3 at halftime. In the second half, they locked in on defense, only allowing six points. On offense, junior wide receiver Xavier Watts took over the game in the second half with two long touchdown catches.
Here are my five thoughts after the game.
Grand Island Was Game
The Islanders have nothing to hang their heads about after losing a close game. That team was very impressive throughout the playoff run and Monday night showed why they were such a tough out in the playoffs. They are very well-coached and their defense swarmed to the football all night. Hats off to them for a great season.
Wire-to-Wire No. 1
It’s not easy to go wire-to-wire as the No. 1 team in Class A, going 13-0 like Omaha Burke just did. There were sky-high expectations for this team because of how last season went for them and because they had so much returning talent. Playing all season with that target on your back is difficult but the Bulldogs were able to handle it well and take care of business.
Bittersweet Ending, But New Beginnings
Nebraska linebacker commit Nick Henrich was unable to finish the game, coming out of the game for good during the first quarter. He made an impact early on with a few tackles and one for loss. After the game Burke coach Paul Limongi said that Henrich “tweaked” the same knee that was injured throughout the playoffs.
Now, both Henrich and Chris Hickman begin a new chapter in Memorial Stadium where they hope to have more joyful moments like they had Monday night after winning a state championship.
There was more to the 2018 Bulldogs than their two high-profile stars and Husker commits, Hickman and Henrich. All season long this team really showed repeatedly that what made them so dangerous is that multiple guys could hurt you during the football game. On Monday, running back James Burks had the winning score while also rushing 39 times for 219 yards. Tyler Chadwick was an efficient 17-for-24 with 238 yards through the air and two touchdowns. Burke is a complete team with good play on offense, defense and special teams.
It’s Xavier Watts’ time
I have a running joke on Twitter about my customary tweet that Xavier Watts is out there making plays. Well, once again the junior made plays all over the football field. Watts was the catalyst for Burke’s comeback win. After the game, coach Paul Limongi spoke about that.
"He took the game over," Limongi said of Watts. "I told him on the sideline, 'Why don't you take this game over?' He said, 'OK,' and he did."
Watts had 11 catches for 159 yards and two touchdowns, plus a game clinching first-down catch. In the end, it was Watts who took control of the moment on the big stage and made sure we wouldn’t forget his name. We will be talking about him a lot over the next year.
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.