LINCOLN — Grand Island Senior High was hitting on all cylinders Friday night.
Leading 3-0 after the first quarter, the Class A No. 8-rated Islanders scored 28 second-quarter points on their way to a 38-0 victory over the Gators in district play at Seacrest Field. Grand Island piled up 397 yards of total offense while limiting North Star to 190 yards.
“In the second quarter, we really put the hammer down pretty good,” Grand Island coach Jeff Tomlin said. “Early, they gave us a couple of issues with their RPO game — they’re pretty good at it — but then we brought a little bit more pressure and seemed to get better and better, defensively.
“We gave our offense a lot of short fields and they were able to convert a bunch, too.”
Gaven Aken started the second-quarter scoring barrage for Grand Island (5-0) with a 1-yard touchdown run. Quarterback Carson Cahoy then hooked up with wide receiver Broc Douglass for scoring passes of 20 and 7 yards, respectively, before Ace McKinnis’ 5-yard TD run gave the Islanders a 31-0 halftime lead.
Cahoy again found Douglass on a 48-yard TD pass on Grand Island’s first possession of the third quarter. That triggered a running clock and marked the end of the night for most of the Islanders’ starters.
“We’re just hitting on all cylinders and when that happens, you end up with games like this,” said Cahoy, who also had a 73-yard pass completion to Blake Leiting called back due to a penalty. “My confidence comes from the people I have around me. My O-line makes me look good, the receivers make me look good and our running backs are big threats on every play.
“People might look at my stats, but at the end of the day, that’s just everyone out there doing their jobs, executing and making my reads come easy.”
Cahoy completed 20 of 27 pass attempts for 290 yards and three TDs with no interceptions. Douglass finished with 10 receptions for 163 yards and Matt Jurgensmier caught four balls for 57 yards.
“Carson is taking care of the football, which is really nice to see, and he’s running the option pretty well,” Tomlin said. “He’s just getting more and more in command of what we need him to do in our scheme. Carson is not only distributing it well, but he’s also taking care of it and he’s such a good athlete that he’s always a threat to run it, too.”
Grand Island’s defense recorded its second consecutive shutout after blanking North Platte 35-0 the previous week. Leiting led the Islanders with five total tackles from his safety position, while linebacker Caleb Francl had four total tackles, including a sack. Linebacker Ben Francl and nose tackle Daylon Keolavone also had four total tackles for GISH.
“Our kids are jelling a little bit and we’re started to develop a little bit of an identity on defense,” Tomlin said. “You can’t downplay that moving Daylon from linebacker to nose is a factor. It gives us more depth on our defensive line and it really solidified our defense as a whole and Daylon is just hard to deal with.
“I think we have our identity back and I’m proud of the way the kids are preparing. They’re preparing really well in the film room and on the practice field.”
Grand Island recorded consecutive shutouts for the first time since the 2017 season when the Islanders blanked North Platte and Omaha Northwest in back-to-back outings.
“It has really just been more of an effort thing with our pursuit and getting 11 guys to the ball,” Grand Island senior linebacker Jordan Hofeldt said. “We’re playing well with good intensity. Our approach is always to take one week at a time and, obviously, never look ahead.”
Tomlin said the Islanders have done a good job of maintaining their focus, despite playing four consecutive opponents with sub-.500 records. North Star is now 1-4.
“I think we have matured a little bit, but we’re still not where we need to be,” Tomlin said. “We’ve got a little ways to go in terms of always paying attention to details, but I can see a better focus and more maturity out of this bunch than we had in the preseason and in week one and week two.
“They understand that the mountain is going to get steeper. They know they can’t sluff off in preparation and be ready for the big battles that are ahead.”