Class A No. 10-rated Grand Island Senior High and Lincoln Southeast have plenty to play for in Friday’s regular-season finale.
The Islanders (5-3) hope to officially lock up a playoff berth and improve their seeding. The Knights (4-4) need a win and some outside help to advance to the postseason.
But when these teams meet up at 4:30 p.m. at Seacrest Field, you could count on a battle no matter what the situations were for the teams.
“They’re a very talented, physical, typical Southeast team,” Grand Island coach Jeff Tomlin said. “They have great size and are very good.
“It’s a traditionally excellent program, and we’ve played great football against each other for a long time. You can throw the records out the window. We’ve had several 1-point or 3-point games.”
Last year the Knights won 27-20 after the Islanders had recorded a pair of more comfortable wins the prior two seasons.
This sets up to be another closer contest.
“It’s a huge game,” Tomlin said. “I think we’re mathematically in (the playoffs), but we want to play well. Going 6-3 is a lot better than 5-4. It’s a district opponent and a conference opponent, and we want to improve our seeding.”
The Islanders are 10th in the wild-card point standings and with a win would clinch one of their district’s three automatic state playoffs bids. Southeast sits 16th in wild-card points.
If it is a close game, Tomlin said special teams could play a big part in deciding who walks away with a win.
“It looks like wind could be a big factor, and (kicker/punter) Brian (Covarrubias) has been a huge weapon for us,” he said.
Covarrubias has 27 touchbacks on 46 kickoffs, averages 35.2 yards on 21 punts and is 6-for-6 on field goals and 31-for-32 on PATs.
“If the winds are 30 (miles per hour) and gusting to 35 and we can’t end zone it (on kickoffs), we’ll have to go to another strategy,” Tomlin said. “We’ll also have to take care of the football because we don’t want to give them a short field. Special teams are going to be important.”
Offensively, the Islanders are averaging 187 yards rushing and 110 passing per game.
Quarterback Cole Evans is 61-for-129 for 856 yards with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions. H also leads the team in rushing with 488 yards and eight touchdowns.
Lincoln Southeast puts up 196 yards passing and 165 yards rushing.
Senior Jack Strong is 78-for-129 for 1,077 yards with nine touchdowns and five picks. Senior Calvin Kyker has rushed for 717 yards and six TDs.
“They line up in 15 to 18 different formations, so we’ll have to be ready for that,” Tomlin said. “Keeping our pad level up for our defensive linemen is also critical because they’re the biggest O-line we’ll play. They do have a strong running game but they also throw the ball, so our defensive backs will have to step up.”
Coming off back-to-back wins over Lincoln Pius X and Bellevue East, the Islanders enter the final regular-season game playing well, Tomlin said.
“We’ve improved in all areas throughout the season and developed depth,” he said. “We’ve overcome adversity with some injuries.”
Northwest (6-2) at York (7-1)
While both teams are already playoff bound, Class B No. 3 York and No. 9 Northwest battle for a district championship and playoff positioning. Friday’s kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
The Dukes have won seven in a row since a loss to No. 1 Elkhorn South to open the season. A powerful running game that averages 278 yards has helped produce 135 points in wins over Sidney, Aurora and Seward the last three weeks. Simon Otte has rushed for 769 yards and seven touchdowns in five games.
Aurora is the only opponent in the last six games to score more than seven points against York.
Northwest is coming off a wild 35-34 win over Aurora in which the Vikings had to survive a late 2-point conversion to successfully cap off a victory after trailing by 21 points.
Northwest averages 247 yards passing and 168 yards rushing. Quarterback Carter Terry is 122-for-199 for 1,947 yards with 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Brady Glause has 39 catches for 612 yards and 11 TDs while Riley Schliep has 35 receptions for 740 yards and nine scores.
Adam Cooper leads the rushing attack with 870 yards and seven touchdowns.
Boone Central/NG (6-2) at GICC (0-8)
Grand Island Central Catholic wraps up its season by facing Class C-1 No. 6-rated Boone Central/Newman Grove. Friday’s kickoff at Memorial Stadium is set for 7 p.m.
The playoff-bound Cardinals are again led by dual-threat quarterback Dylan Gentrup, who has rushed and passed for over 1,000 yards for a second straight season.
This year, Gentrup has rushed for 1,017 yards and 13 touchdowns. Through the air, he is 90-for-161 for 1,308 yards with 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Senior Levi Krueger is closing in on giving the Cardinals a second 1,000-yard rusher. He sits at 927 yards on 156 carries with 12 touchdowns.