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Friday Night follow-up: Grand Island, Lincoln High present interesting stories; Elm Creek's Hail Mary; Omaha South's wild numbers

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I'm really interested to see how the rest of the season goes for both Grand Island and Lincoln High after watching the teams play each other Friday night.

The Islanders aren't flashy, and nothing is necessarily pretty, but they play defense at a really high level, and are super-physical both in the running game and in the second level of that defense.

Grand Island might struggle to score, especially against the high-level opponents on its schedule, but there's certainly enough there to play spoiler against a team like Kearney in a couple weeks, or a playoff foe when the weather turns cold.

There's a mental toughness there too: after Lincoln High's Julian Babahanov returned a fumble 71 yards for a touchdown that put the Links up 14-7 in the second quarter, GI responded with a long touchdown drive to tie the game going into halftime. Against a team that feeds on momentum like Lincoln High, that was an impressive statement.

"I was proud of how our offense just responded and drove down, and didn’t really miss a beat," Grand Island coach Jeff Tomlin said. "I knew that they were getting a little bit winded, and I thought if we pushed the tempo that would help."

A lack of depth certainly played a role for Lincoln High, which was up to the task for three quarters before giving up two touchdowns in the fourth. Nearly all of the Links' top guys play both ways, and that takes a toll on a team that has plenty of top-end talent.

In both of its losses, Lincoln High has been either ahead or tied in the fourth quarter. With winless Lincoln Northeast up next, and a Lincoln North Star team that has lost two in a row on deck after that, there appears to be time for the Links to figure out how to finish off games.

"That’s what we talked about after the game. It’s about getting better. You see a team (like Grand Island), their culture is built on intensity, physicality," Lincoln High coach Mark Macke said. "And we can do it at times, but that’s going to be our motivation moving forward — can we get better each week, and start putting together that type of intensity."

They need to stay healthy, but the Links have the horses to make a run at a Class A playoff spot. It will come down to how they finish — both in games, and the remainder of the regular season.

Helmet taps

Elm Creek: The Buffaloes went 0-8 during an injury-plagued 2021, snapping a string of 10 straight playoff appearances, but they're making up for it in a big way this season. Elm Creek is 4-0, with the latest win coming on what will go down as one of the plays of the year in Nebraska high school football.

Trailing previously unbeaten Central Valley 48-46 with 2.8 seconds left, Elm Creek quarterback Beau Knapp hooked up with receiver Trent Watkins on a final-play Hail Mary to give Elm Creek the 52-48 win.

The celebration at the end of the video is almost as good as the throw and catch. Just goes to show you never know what you might see on a Friday night.

Aric Thomas, Omaha South: The Packers' receiver tied a Class A state record with 282 receiving yards against South Sioux City.

Thomas caught 13 passes, four of them for touchdowns, and added a passing touchdown in one of the wilder games of the season — South Sioux City won 67-60 after Omaha South rallied from a 41-20 halftime deficit.

Dylan Sheard had seven catches for 219 yards and three TDs for the Packers, with quarterback Daeshawn Tolbert throwing for 497 yards. South put up a whopping 720 yards of offense.

Former Bellevue West QB Jadyn Kowalski holds the state record for passing yards in a game with 599. The all-time record for receiving yards in a game belongs to Matt Davison with 313 from his days at Tecumseh. Coincidentally, the Class B record for receiving yards in a game belongs to a former South Sioux City player: Nate Rogers had 311 in a 2012 game.

Contact the writer at cbasnett@journalstar.com or 402-473-7436. On Twitter @ChrisBasnettLJS.

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