5 Thoughts on Omaha Burke's 16-14 Win over Lincoln Southeast
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

5 Thoughts on the Burke Stadium Playoff Double-Header

October 30, 2021

Burke Stadium played host to a playoff double-header on Friday.

First, the seventh-seeded Burke Bulldogs took care of business against No. 10 Lincoln Southeast, advancing with a 21-3 win.

Then No. 11 Grand Island pulled off the upset, holding on for a 30-28 win over No. 6 Omaha Creighton Prep.

Here are five thoughts on the two games and the state of the Class A playoff bracket after one round.

No. 7 Omaha Burke

The Bulldog defense showed up in a big way on Friday night.

Lincoln Southeast turned its first drive into three points, marching down the field into the red zone before having to settle for a short field goal. That proved to be the last Southeast score of the game, however, as the Bulldogs held them under 100 total yards the rest of the way.

Oregon commit Devon Jackson and senior captain Alec Cook flew all over the field and made a number of tackles from the second level while senior corners Trae Starks and Caden Bell blanketed receivers.

Offensively, senior quarterback Cooper Katskee had a really solid day, completing 14-of-22 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns and running eight times for 65 yards. His favorite target was Starks, who shadowed Nebraska commit Jake Appleget all game and held his own on defense while catching five passes for 72 yards and a score.

The other passing touchdown went to Titan Glassman, one of a handful of freshmen making an impact for the Bulldogs. Cameron Bell starts on the offensive line and Christian Jones played on both sides of the ball as a receiver and linebacker.

Burke has certainly come a long way since I saw them get blown out at Bellevue West in week one. Coach Paul Limongi has done a great job with a team that featured just three players with varsity experience coming into the year thanks to OPS canceling the season last year.

No. 10 Lincoln Southeast

All season long Southeast has been trying to figure something out at quarterback, and the Knights never quite food that answer.

On Friday, sophomore Owen Baxter got the start but was essentially a running back taking the snaps (he’s actually listed on the roster as a running back). He completed just one of his four pass attempts for 2 yards. Baxter had some success on the ground, running it eight times for 46 yards, but an injury knocked him out during the second half.

Senior Willem Reddick, who had been the starter most of the year, came off the bench to lead the two-minute offense at the end of the half and completed his first two passes for 13 yards before getting sacked on his next two snaps, stalling the drive. Reddick went 0-for-7 in the second half.

Without the threat of a passing game, the defense was able to load up against Southeast’s ground game. Max Buettenback finished with 83 yards on 17 carries (4.9 per tote), but 67 of those yards came on six carries as it was a boom-or-bust night for the 2023 Nebraska baseball commit; his other 11 carries went for a total of 16 yards.

Appleget, the 2022 Nebraska outside linebacker commit who is dangerous on either side of the ball, finished with just one catch, though it should have been two. He made an incredibly impressive one-handed touchdown grab at the back of the end zone, but the officials ruled him out of bounds (a missed call from every angle I saw). It was disappointing that the Knights weren’t able to get Appleget the ball more in his final high school game; he is a lot of fun to watch when he gets the chance to make plays.

Teitum Tuioti, the son of Nebraska defensive line coach Tony Tuioti and a 2023 Huskers target, made a handful of strong defensive plays including an early sack a few other tackles near or behind the line of scrimmage.

No. 11 Grand Island

Led by Mr. Do-It-All Kytan Fyfe, the younger brother of former Nebraska walk-on quarterback Ryker Fyfe, the Islanders invaded Omaha and pulled off the second-biggest upset of the day (more on No. 1 below).

Fyfe is Grand Island’s starting quarterback and leading rusher, an occasional receiver, a starter in the secondary and the team’s punter. Fyfe typically does a lot of his damage with his legs, but he couldn’t find many rushing lanes against Creighton Prep’s fearsome front four. He did score on short touchdown on the ground, but including sacks, I had him with minus-1 yard on 21 carries.

However, he more than made up for it with his arm. Time and time again, Fyfe extended plays and evaded rushers in the backfield, and he went 22-of-35 for a career-high 309 yards and three touchdowns against a defense that had been among the state’s best throughout the regular season.

Fyfe also caught to passes for 16 yards as Grand Island tried to throw Prep off by giving back-up quarterback Cohen Evans a drive and moving Fyfe outside. Evans started his drive with a 32-yard reception on a reverse pass from wide receiver Brandon Fox then went 4-for-6 for 30 yards.

Fox led the Islanders with four receptions for 89 yards and a touchdown, and he made one really tough highlight-reel catch. Cole Thorne caught five passes for 74 yards and the other two touchdowns, one from 31 yards out and the other from 15. Cole Bauer worked underneath routes and caught a couple of screens on his way to seven receptions for 70 yards while Dylan Sextro, a 6-foot-6 senior, nabbed four passes for 48 yards. Fyfe did a great job of spreading the ball all over the field, and his receivers went up and made some big plays.

No. 6 Omaha Creighton Prep

Unfortunately, Prep had to play without dynamic junior running back CharMar Brown, who injured his ankle on the first drive of the Junior Jays’ regular season finale last week against Lincoln East.

Once again, senior Jack Stessman stepped up, and a week after setting a career high with 190 yards, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound back one-upped himself in his final game, finishing with 25 carries for 215 yards and four touchdowns. Grand Island limited Stessman to 4 or less yards on his first seven carries, but he kept at it and eventually started to find some holes.

Stessman had runs of 32 yards, 18 yards, 42 yards (a touchdown), 14 yards, 37 yards (a touchdown), 11 yards and 10 yards (a touchdown) — a total of seven explosive runs.

However, the secondary had a tough time sticking with Grand Island’s receivers which allowed the Islanders to play from ahead most of the night. Four turnovers proved to be too much to overcome as well as Prep had two chances to take the lead late and literally fumbled both of them away.

First, Sam Rodino picked off Fyfe near midfield with just under three minutes to go. Two plays later, fullback George Egan fumbled the ball right back to the Islanders as Grand Island stuffed him at the line of scrimmage.

The defense forced a three-and-out and a punt. Prep started its last drive at its won 16 with 67 seconds to go and no timeouts. After an incomplete pass on first down, senior quarterback Jack Piernicky found John Pargo along the right sideline for a 10-yard gain to move the chains and stop the clock with 55 seconds left. Piernicky dropped back and found his best receiver, Thomas Leiden, deep up the middle of the field. Leiden gained about 37 yards, but as he was fighting for extra yardage an Islander defender popped the ball free and Grand Island fell on it to seal the victory.

Upsets in Class A

Grand Island’s upset as an 11-seed over a six was pretty surprising and impressive, but the Islanders weren’t the only one that pulled off a massive upset. No. 16 Omaha North stunned the state at Buell Stadium by knocking off No. 1 Millard South, 49-42.

Nebraska commit Gage Stenger was back at quarterback after a hamstring injury kept him sidelined the last couple of weeks and he threw six touchdown passes, but Omaha North senior Keshaun Williams capped a big-day with a 39-yard game-winning touchdown from quarterback Jordan Williams with 16 seconds left.

Coming off a year without football, Omaha North started the season 0-5 before wining its last four games to qualify for the state tournament. Now its moving on to the quarterfinals after handing the Patriots their first loss of the season.

Omaha North moves on to face No. 8 North Platte. No. 4 Elkhorn South and No. 5 Gretna both took care of business and will face each other next week on the other side of the top half of the bracket. One of those four teams will be playing for a state championship next month.

Grand Island’s reward for knocking off Prep is a date with No. 3 Bellevue West, who blew out No. 14 Papillion-La Vista 63-26. Seeding held in the other side of that half of the bracket as well as Burke will face No. 2 Omaha Westside.

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