\ARCADIA — Arcadia-Loup City didn’t waste any time starting just about as dominant of a quarter as could be imagined Wednesday.
Prestyn Rogers returned the opening kickoff 66 yards for a touchdown, the first of six first-quarter scores by the No. 9-rated Rebels in a Class D-1 playoff second-round game against No. 7 and previously undefeated Sutherland.
That 44-point first quarter outburst allowed Arcadia-Loup City to coast to a 72-14 victory.
“I’m wondering all of that stress, what in the world was it for?” Rebels coach Mike Scott said. “But the boys executed their game plan just about as good as we could ever expect.
“We were very, very concerned, but they were missing their middle linebacker who is also their left guard. That changed their game plan, and I think that’s what put them behind the eight (ball) to start with.”
In an early sign that it wasn’t going to be Sutherland’s night, Rogers wasn’t even supposed to be returning kicks.
“We put him in right before (the kickoff) because he was nursing a groin (injury) and I didn’t want to put him in,” Scott said. “He says he’s fine, so I took his word for it. I guess he was, huh?
“He’s about as shifty as you’re going to find, especially for a sophomore. He’s going to be a lot of fun in the future.”
Rogers took a bouncing kick at the 14-yard line and then burst up the middle and through the coverage to give Arcadia-Loup City the lead for good 10 seconds into the game.
“I was just hopeful,” said Rogers about his injury. “It felt good starting the day. Before the game I told (coach Scott) that I was ready to go. It all turned out good.
“I saw the hole and had great blocks from my teammates. I ran as fast as I could. I think that gave us a lot of momentum and really got us into the game and ready to go.”
Rogers also showed he was fine later on a 39-yard run during which he reversed course clear across the field twice and broke three tackles.
The Rebels (9-1) didn’t stop with the kickoff return. Rogers added a 35-yard punt return, and ALC’s first play from scrimmage was a 26-yard touchdown run by Caden Kusek.
The first pass was a 47-yard score from Jaden Jones to Drew Lewandowski. The Rebels held a 30-0 lead before just 4:23 into the game after Jones added an 8-yard run, and they piled up 228 yards of total offense in the first quarter along with 108 return yards
“We have a great passing game and our linemen did a great job tonight with our running game,” Rogers said. “I think as long as we keep rolling and stay healthy, we’ll be good.”
Six Rebels reached the end zone in the first half, and the team began subbing out some of the starters early in the second quarter. For the game, they amassed 303 yards on 41 carries and were 5-for-8 passing for another 72 yards.
“That’s the difference from all the teams I’ve had at ALC is we’ve always been pretty one-dimensional for the most part,” Scott said. “We can run the ball down about anybody’s throat until we found somebody with a scheme that could stop us, and then we weren’t effective passing enough.
“This team we have now, we have a lot of threats.”
Sutherland trailed 56-0 before getting a pair of touchdowns late in the first half. The Sailors were haunted by nine turnovers (five fumbles, four interceptions).
“(Assistant) coach (Aaron) Habe has done just a phenomenal job with our defense,” Scott said. “We’ve shut so many teams out this season. They scored on our JV team, but our varsity team is solid.”
The differences in schedules showed in the game. Arcadia-Loup City faced three teams in the regular season who were also in the second round of the playoffs (Fullerton, Burwell and Elm Creek). Sutherland only played one team that finished with a winning record.
“Burwell and Elm Creek definitely seasoned us for some of these better teams — physical football, fast football,” Scott said. “South Loup was tough when we played them before they lost their running back. It’s made us what we are. All that competition was weathered us.”
The scariest thing about the result is that Arcadia-Loup City did it when not at full strength.
“We have three major ankle injuries,” Scott said. “We didn’t start Clayton Dethlefs, who missed three games. He was the leading tackler in the state before he went down, so we’re missing our leading tackler.
“My son Jadyn twisted his ankle last week. He played half a dozen plays in this one. Looks like our quarterback is going to have a little ankle tweak next week. We’ve got little knees here and there. These guys just find a way to persevere. It just speaks for our depth.”
Arcadia-Loup City travels to No. 5 Dundy County-Stratton for Tuesday’s quarterfinals. Dundy County-Stratton edged Fullerton (the only team to beat ALC) 20-18.
Noah Holm had eight catches for 108 yards and a touchdown to lead Sutherland (9-1).