GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — Grand Island may not have played its best game of the season Friday night, but it was more than enough to give the Islanders a 21-3 victory over Lincoln Southwest.
A strong performance in the first half by the offense saw the Islanders produce touchdowns on three of their four possessions. And as the second half unfolded, Grand Island’s defense managed to keep the No. 9-rated Silver Hawks out of the end zone.
Islander coach Jeff Tomlin acknowledged that his team had hurt itself with penalties on offense, but gave strong praise to all aspects of his team’s performance.
“You couldn’t ask for a greater effort by our kids,” he said. “Our defense played their hearts out — just a remarkable effort on their part. You have to give a lot of credit to our offensive line, because they really gave Pierce (Almond, quarterback) time to throw.
“We didn’t do as good a job as far as playing disciplined — we have things we’ve got to clean up and that includes avoiding penalties. But I am really proud of the effort that our kids showed. They deserve the credit — they make the coaches look good.”
Grand Island dominated the early going as it took the opening kickoff and moved to a first down at the Silver Hawk 12 before the second offensive penalty of the night, following an incomplete pass, bogged things down. Grand Island lined up for a 22-yard field goal attempt, but saw it go wide.
Southwest (1-1) rolled the dice and lost on its first possession. Facing fourth and 1 at its own 42, Southwest running back Corey Williams got buried for a 4-yard loss, and this time the Islanders took full advantage of the opportunity. Almond found Kevin Cahoy for a 14-yard strike for a first down at the Southwest 8-yard line. Three plays later, Andrew Rojas went over from 1 yard out for a 7-0 lead.
Southwest again failed to produce offensively as the second quarter wound down and was forced to punt. On the first play of the second quarter, Jake Mayer broke through the center of the Silver Hawk defense and rumbled 60 yards for the score.
The Islander defense again held Southwest without a first down, and a poor punt gave Grand Island the ball near midfield. The Islanders moved into position on a 17-yard pass to Trevor Wojtalewicz, followed by a 15-yard burst around the left side by Rojas. Mayer capped the drive with his second touchdown of the half, going in from 3 yards out to give Grand Island a 21-0 advantage.
Southwest gained some momentum late in the half, as it was able to move into scoring position with time running out. With less than 30 seconds remaining, Ryan Lindahl hit a 42-yard field goal to get the Silver Hawks on the board.
The second half proved to be a much different affair, as both defenses stepped up over the final two quarters. The Islanders had only one possession in the third quarter and were able to get as close as the Southwest 22, but a field-goal attempt was no good.
Southwest responded with a drive that went into the fourth period and burned eight minutes of clock, but still came up empty. On third and goal at the Islander 5, Adan Redwine broke through to sack quarterback Chase Gobel for an 11-yard loss, and a subsequent field-goal attempt was no good.
“We just didn’t play well offensively,” Southwest coach Mark King said. “We missed a lot of tackles early, although we did do a better job later in the game. Grand Island did some good things early, but I thought our defensive coaches did a good job with adjustments.”
Offensively, the good news for Grand Island was a smartly controlled short passing game by Almond, and strong running by Mayer and Rojas, both of whom showed good balance and the ability to break tackles and keep going forward.
The bad news for the Islanders was that one week after losing linebacker Luke VanWie, Cahoy suffered an injured hand in the first half.
“Tonight was a conference win, and that’s something we think is a big deal,” Tomlin said. “Obviously it was great to get the win. It was two good programs going against each other. We started well, overcame some things, and now we just have to hope that our injured guys heal up.”
Lincoln Southwest ............................ 0 3 0 0—3
Grand Island ............................ 7 14 0 0—21
GI: Rojas 1 run (Wentling PAT kick), 2:48.
GI: Mayer 60 run (Wentling PAT kick), 11:48.
GI: Mayer 3 run (Wentling PAT kick), 7:40.
LSW: Lindahl 42 field goal, 0:27.
Rushing: LSW, Lazaro 11-38, Williams 5-30, Bordeaux 8-17, Nordgren 1-12, Richmond 1-4, Rowlett 1-3, Behrens 1-0. Brown 1-(-2), Gobel 11-(-9). GI, Mayer 10-94, Rojas 12-54, Almond 11-48, Knuth 1-4, Kier 3-1.
Passing: LSW, Gobel 10-18-0-67. GI, Almond 13-17-0-121.
Receiving: LSW, Prai 5-44, Freese 2-14, Lazaro 1-4, Rowlett 1-4, Bordeaux 1-1. GI, Wojtalewicz 4-52, Cahoy 4-46, Mayer 3-13, Rojas 2-10.