Playoff streak up to 11
Gothenburg’s football team pushed the number of consecutive state playoff appearances to 11 with a 4-4 record on the regular season and a Class C-1 playoff berth announced Saturday by the Nebraska School Activities Association.
The Swedes are seeded No. 13 in the western half of the C-1 bracket and will travel to Cozad for the first-round game at 7 p.m. on Thursday.Swede coach Craig Haake said there are pros and cons to playing Cozad but he’s not going to be picky.
“We put ourselves in a position to make the playoffs,” Haake said. “Sure we’d like to play somebody we haven’t already seen this year but this way we know exactly what we’re up against.”
Cozad defeated Gothenburg 42-7 in September.
“They beat us on our home field handily, or so the score said,” Haake said. “We know we’ve got to control the ball and stop the big plays.”
It wasn’t necessarily big plays that caused Gothenburg’s 31-0 shutout by Kearney Catholic on Thursday night to end the regular season.
“They made some plays in the second half,” Haake said, “but we made them earn every yard.”
The coach said his Swedes gave themselves several chances to be in the game, they simply couldn’t convert those opportunities into points.
Neither team moved the ball particularly well in the first half.
Kearney Catholic gained 38 yards in the first quarter while Gothenburg managed only 16 yards as the teams went scoreless.
Gothenburg had two field goal opportunities in the opening period, missing the first 50-yard attempt wide with the wind and having the second blocked.
The Swedes retaliated with a blocked field goal of their own midway through the second quarter.
The Stars held Gothenburg to three-and-out on the next series and scored five plays later on a 10-yard run by Conner Streit.
Swede senior Preston Franzen blocked the PAT kick to leave Kearney Catholic with a 6-0 lead at halftime.
The Stars pushed harder in the second half, scoring two touchdowns in the third period and two in the fourth.
“They didn’t make any big changes in scheme,” Haake said. “They just cleaned up their execution a little bit.”
Plus, the wind died down some in the second half, allowing the Stars to throw the ball a little more.
The Stars scored on their first possession of the third period on a 15-yard run by quarterback Abe Clinch.
Kearney Catholic scored again just before the end of the quarter on a 26-yard pass from Clinch to Brian Husmann. The two-point conversion failed but the Stars held an 18-0 advantage.
Kearney Catholic added two more scoring plays in the fourth quarter, both pass plays from Clinch to Husmann.
“I thought our defense actually did an excellent job, especially the front eight,” Haake said. “That’s a very good offensive line with multiple weapons and we kept them under wraps for the most part.”
It was on offense that the Swedes struggled.
“We weren’t able to generate anything,” Haake said. “Kearney’s tackles clogged up the inside and their backers flowed hard and made tackles.”
Gothenburg finished the night with 21 yards passing on three receptions and 97 yards on the ground.
Franzen picked up 40 yards rushing on 13 carries to lead the way offensively.
Franzen also picked up two fumble recoveries, the blocked field goal, a blocked PAT attempt and 11 tackles.
Haake doesn’t come away from the loss feeling badly.
“I don’t think the score was indicative of how the game was played,” he said. “I was very pleased with the defensive effort. We just need to clean up the offense a little.”
Cozad (6-2)will pose a challenge for the Swedes but Haake says his team is ready.
“It’s not very often in high school football that you get a second shot at your best rival,” he said. “The kids take pride in keeping the playoff streak going and they don’t intend to roll over.”
In addition to the Swedes and Haymakers, two of the other three teams in Gothenburg’s C1-9 district are in the state playoffs.
Kearney Catholic won the district with a perfect 8-0 record and enters the playoffs with the third seed in the west bracket hosting Central City (2-6) in the first round.
Chase County (5-3) is No. 9 in the west bracket and travels to Ord (5-3).
All Class C-1 first-round games will be played Thursday.