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FOOTBALL: Cougars run into Badgers' buzzsaw in Class B final defeat

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LINCOLN – Omaha Gross ran into the Bennington buzzsaw on Tuesday, Nov. 22, in the Class B State Championship Game at Memorial Stadium, losing 38-14 as the Badgers repeated.

The Badgers won their 26th straight game and second title, while the Cougars fell short in their first state final since 2012.

On their opening drive, Omaha Gross got the ball past midfield but was forced to punt. Bennington quickly responded with a 75-yard pass from Trey Bird to Isaac Conner.

The Cougars once again got the ball past midfield and faced fourth and four at the Badgers 41.

This time, they went for it, as junior quarterback Colby Duncan passed over the middle to Owen Brennan. The senior running back juked a defender and got the sideline on a touchdown to pull even.

A 25-yard field goal went missed for Bennington, but after another Gross punt, scored on another Bird-Conner connection, this time for 26 yards.

After the third Cougars punt with less than three minutes left in the half, Bennington slowly drove down to the one-yard line. With three seconds left, Nick Colvert punched in a one-yard run on fourth and goal to give the Badgers a 21-7 halftime lead.

In the second quarter, Gross head coach Thomas Van Haute said the Cougars were “gassed” and the Badgers caught them off guard a few times.

“Second quarter we kind of got a little gassed there and they kind of put their foot on the gas,” Van Haute said. “It took us a little while to get settled in.”

Gross’ head coach added that Bennington matched their physicality up front.

“I thought we’d have the edge up front, but they really matched us,” Van Haute added.

At the break, Bennington was out gaining Omaha Gross 218-114, and Bird was 8-10 for 136 yards and a pair of TDs, while Duncan was 5-8 for 66 and one.

While he didn’t want to call the touchdown right before halftime a “crusher,” it “didn’t help.”

“But hats (off) to them, they came out here and executed and played a great game,” Van Haute said.

In the second half, Bennington pulled away with touchdowns by Colvert and Ben Parsons, though Gross senior running back Jake Garcia had a solid final drive of his high school career.

First, he stiff armed a defender to pick up a first down, and then grabbed a one-handed catch and bulldozed into the endzone for the final points in a 38-14 defeat.

“I just couldn’t be more proud of the kids,” Van Haute said. “Undefeated regular season, (we) hadn’t been back here since 2012. And just a great group of 24 seniors that really invested everything in the program.”

Moving forward, Van Haute said the Cougars will need to invest in the weight room to “hopefully make a run next year.”

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