Last year Heartland Lutheran celebrated a win in its home finale that it thought led to the program’s first ever playoff berth.
But that playoff game never materialized.
The Red Hornets will try to repeat the outcome of the game during this year’s regular-season home finale and avoid the disappointment of the playoff situation when they host Red Cloud Friday at 3 p.m.
“A win would guarantee that we’re in for the first time, and that would be a huge accomplishment after last year’s debacle at the end,” Heartland Lutheran coach Tim Leech said. “It would also keep our chance to host a first-round game alive, which is also one of our goals now.”
Last year, Heartland Lutheran thought a win on the final night over Silver Lake punched its ticket into the six-man playoffs. But a 5-2 Red Cloud team was upset at 1-6 Maywood-Hayes Center, costing the Red Hornets just enough playoff points to put them 17th in the points standings for a 16-team field.
Ironically, Heartland Lutheran (6-1) can clinch this year with a win over Red Cloud (4-2).
“They’re a very straight-forward, physical team,” Leech said. “They will try to run the ball down your throat.”
Defensively, the Warriors will give the Red Hornets a different look.
“They pressure you and have a good attack at the line of scrimmage,” Leech said. “Unlike most six-man teams, they will play a zone defense.
“We’re telling our receivers that even if you’re not the primary receiver, it’s still extremely important to run your route correctly to open up the primary receiver.”
Red Cloud is coming off a 53-6 loss to No. 1 Harvard, a team that defeated the Red Hornets 60-14 two weeks ago.
In an interesting subplot, Heartland Lutheran’s leading rusher, receiver and tackler Quinston Larsen played for Red Cloud last year.
But Leech said it’ll be just another game for Larsen.
“You wouldn’t know it was his former team,” Leech said. “Quinston is an incredibly level-headed young man. He’s offered us insights about what they did last year. But, at the same time, they know he’s here and will change things.”
Grand Island (6-1) at Lincoln Southwest (4-3)
After suffering its first loss of the season to Class A No. 2-rated Millard West, No. 7 Grand Island Senior High looks to bounce back against Lincoln Southwest.
Kickoff at Seacrest Field is set for 4:30 p.m. and is the first of two trips to Lincoln to end the regular season for the Islanders.
Southwest saw a two-game winning streak snapped last week by a 14-0 loss against Kearney.
The Silver Hawks average 148 yards rushing and 102 yards passing per game.
Grand Island quarterback Carson Cahoy is 99-for-146 for 1,260 yards with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. Broc Douglass has 37 catches for 589 yards with seven scores and is averaging 22.2 yards on five punt returns and 21.5 yards on four kickoff returns.
Crete (2-5) at Northwest (6-1)
Northwest looks to extend its winning streak to five games entering next week’s showdown against Hastings with a victory over Crete.
Kickoff at Viking Field is set for 7 p.m.
Crete has allowed at least 35 points in all five of its losses, including a 40-33 setback to Beatrice last week. The Cardinals average 147 yards rushing and 86 yards passing per game.
Class B No. 4-rated Northwest puts up 163 yards passing and 147 yards rushing per game. Quarterback Rans Sanders is nearing 1,000 yards passing and is currently 72-for-117 (61.5%) for 935 yards with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. Sean Juengst (28 receptions) and Tyler Hageman (23) have been his favorite targets and are both averaging over 16 yards per catch.
GICC (3-4) at Gibbon (1-6)
Rushing defense will be the focus for Grand Island Central Catholic when it tries to snap a four-game losing streak during Friday’s 7 p.m. game at Gibbon.
The Buffaloes’ Sean Hampton piled up 422 yards on 41 carries with two touchdowns in last year’s loss to the Crusaders.
This year Hampton has gained 815 yards on 186 carries but has only one touchdown.