KEARNEY — A two-win Central City team with nothing to lose took Miles Field Thursday night and gave Kearney Catholic its biggest scare of the season.
The Class C-1 No. 6-ranked Stars escaped with a 14-3 victory over the same team they had defeated by 48 points earlier in the season, advancing to the second-round of the state playoffs.
Central City put together a late drive, but a Derek Jackson interception in the endzone with 34 seconds remaining sealed it for the Stars.
“I think we overlooked them,” KCHS assistant coach Rashawn Harvey said. “We beat them back in Week 4 and we kind of practiced like we were overlooking them, and turnovers and penalties definitely set us back.”
Two lost fumbles, nearly 70 penalty yards and a third-down conversion percentage of 30 percent added up against Kearney Catholic. However, it was a Central City miscue that gave KCHS the early advantage.
After forcing a turnover-on-downs on Kearney Catholic’s opening possession, the Bison offense coughed up the football near midfield. A recovery by Conner Streit led to a Thomas Connely four-yard touchdown run just five plays later to give the Stars a 7-0 lead.
Central City, which attempted only two passes in the first half, responded with an 11-play drive that resulted in a 45-yard field goal from Kolby Lenhart on the final play of the first quarter.
The ball stayed on the ground as the clock ran for the majority of the second quarter. KCHS quarterback Abe Clinch, who took18 carries for 96 yards in addition to 88 yards passing, ran in the last touchdown of the night from four yards out midway through the second.
“He did well,” Harvey said of Clinch. “We loaded up and ran right behind him. We had to use (Central City’s) theory of, three yards and a cloud of dust. We had to do that in the third and fourth quarters to help us get out of here with a win.”
The clock became Kearney Catholic’s ally in the second half, as the Stars were having a tough time moving the football.
“(Central City) had a pretty good gameplan offensively and defensively,” Harvey said. “They definitely wanted to keep the ball out of our hands.”
Central City’s Jake Brown took 28 carries for 98 yards. The former quarterback moved to the backfield for the final four games of the season due to an injury to starting running back Jake Anderson.
Brown moved back under center for the second half, and completed six of nine passes for 88 yards on the Bison’s final drive of the game.
“We needed to put the ball in his hands,” Central City coach Darin Garfield said. “When we called on him to do some throwing down the stretch, he did a great job there, too.”
Brown’s final pass of the game was the Jackson interception, dashing any hopes of a major upset.
“They did everything I asked of them, and they layed it all on the field with nothing left over,” Garfield said of his team. “It’s hard to beat a team twice, and we used that as motivation for our guys. I’m happy with the gameplan that our coaches came up with. We just came up a little short.”
For Kearney Catholic it was a sigh of relief, and maybe a reality check.
“I hope our young men take out of this that you can’t overlook a team,” Harvey said. “You’ve got to prepare every week. You can get beat on any day in the playoffs and it’s one-and-done. It’s not going to be pretty looking at the film, but we’ll look at it and make some changes.”
CENTRAL CITY (2-7) ............. 3 0 0 0—3
KEARNEY CATHOLIC (9-0) ............. 7 7 0 0—14
KCHS — Thomas Connely 4 run (Grant Buschkoetter kick)
CCHS — Kolby Lenhart 45 field goal
KCHS — Abe Clinch 4 run (Buschkoetter kick)
RUSHING — KC: Abe Clinch 18-96, Thomas Connely 7-37, Brian Husmann 2-32, Alex Lowe 5-30, Brett James 4-9, Alex Liess 1-0, Conner Streit 1 (minus 4). CC: Jake Brown 28-95, Brad Schoch 2-8, Kristian Lindburg 3-4, Thomas Geiger 1-3, Joey Hawthorne 5 (minus 4).
PASSING — KC: Abe Clinch 11-14-1, 88 yds; Conner Streit 0-1-0, 0 yds. CC: Jake Brown 6-9-1, 88 yds; Joey Hawthorne 2-4-0, 6 yds.
RECEIVING — KC: Brett James 4-18, Brian Husmann 2-35, Jack Graham 2-4, Alex Liess 1-15, Conner Streit 1-9, Thomas Connely 1-7. CC: Johnny Thornton 3-46, Kristian Lindburg 3-39, Kolby Lenhart 1-8, Ross Wagner 1-1.