The Class A playoff quarterfinals means the same destination and the same opponent as last year for Grand Island Senior High.
The Islanders would certainly take the same outcome.
No. 6-rated Grand Island (9-1) heads to Buell Stadium for Friday’s 4 p.m. clash against No. 3 Millard South (9-1).
Last year, the Islanders headed home with a 27-24 quarterfinal victory after scoring two touchdowns in the final 7:51.
“We’ve played Millard South several times over the last five years, so they’re pretty familiar with us, we’re pretty familiar with them,” G.I. head coach Jeff Tomlin said. “As far as a draw, I’m sure that is good from both perspectives as far as the intel we have on each other.”
This is the sixth straight year that the teams have met. The Islanders have won three of those five meetings.
The Patriots don’t look very different from the team Grand Island saw last postseason.
“They’re very similar,” Tomlin said. “Obviously, they are a prolific running team that has very good athletes. Their offensive and defensive lines are really, really good. They are very darn similar, but a year better at it.”
Millard South piles up 312 yards rushing per game while adding 105 yards through the air.
Senior Isaiah Harris has 1,676 yards and 26 touchdowns on 126 carries (13.3 ypc) while junior quarterback TJ Urban is also close to the 1,000-yard mark with 995 yards and 12 touchdowns on 115 carries. Urban is 65-for-114 passing (57.0%) for 1,096 yards with 10 touchdowns and one interception.
“We just have to play great base defense,” Tomlin said. “You can’t get super fancy with them because they’re pretty even strong/weak. They don’t have tendencies to a point where we can sellout to their strong side like we can some teams or their weak side.
“Our D-line will have to play well in the trenches, and we expect them to. We’ll have to tackle. They have great speed. We’re going to have to fence the ball in well and tackle, but that’s every game. Fundamentals are the key to making them earn every inch.”
The Islanders have easily won the turnover battle this season. The defense has forced 23 turnovers (14 interceptions, nine fumbles) while the offense has only lost the ball three times on two fumbles and a Carson Cahoy interception in the second half of the opener against Kearney.
“Offensively we need to maintain drives and move the sticks,” Tomlin said. “Ball security has been a positive for us all year. We’ve done a great job of taking care of the ball, and it should be no different on Friday.
“Obviously, we think we’ve come a long way offensively from Week 1. We’ve really evolved, so we’re feeling good about where we’re at and our guys are going to play hard.”
Playing on the road and at an earlier time than usual can be extra challenges for some teams, but Tomlin said that shouldn’t affect this group of Islanders.
“We’ve played at 4:30 and we’ve played two 8 o’clock games,” he said. “We’ve had a majority of our games on the road, so these guys are resilient. That’s something I’ve been very proud of this group. They’re responders, they’re resilient, they don’t panic, they don’t get rattled. They just compete, and they’ve been good at that from the get-go.”