SHICKLEY, Neb. — It was a quintessential small-town football scene Friday, though it was the first time in more than 20 years the final was at a high school.
One hour before kickoff between BDS and Sandhills/Thedford, there were so many cars coming into town that two people on horseback directed traffic. Some fans were shuttled to the field on a hayrack.
This state championship was played under the shadow of a small water tower, instead of the shadow of the massive press box at Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium.
Some fans stood about 20 feet from the field, marching up and down the field with the action.
And the game was worthy of the setting. BDS made a second-half comeback to beat Sandhills/Thedford 36-28 for the Eight Man-2 championship.
The Eagles scored the go-ahead touchdown with six minutes left in the fourth quarter on a 2-yard run by Dalton Kleinschmidt.
But that wasn’t it. BDS forced a three-and-out on the Knights’ next drive, then BDS added to its lead with a 46-yard TD catch by Eric Schroeder to extend its lead.
But Sandhills/Thedford scored in the closing minutes to pull within eight. BDS couldn’t breathe easy until it recovered an onside kick with 70 seconds left.
Moments later, the celebration was on. Thirty minutes after the game ended, it didn’t look like the hundreds of fans still on the field were planning to leave anytime soon.
It was a back-and-forth game, full of big hits on defense and long scoring plays. Five of the touchdowns covered 30 yards or more as BDS (12-0) trailed 20-14 at halftime.
“We played 12 games this year, and we were behind in seven of the 12 games,” BDS co-coach Mark Rotter said. “It’s kind of unusual for a state champion team. … These kids hung in there and hung in there. Tonight, how many times were we in trouble tonight? That’s what they did all year.”
This has been a remarkable run for the co-op, with the Eagles winning the state title for the third time in six years. The BDS seniors also won as freshmen.
“We’re so grateful for this season,” BDS quarterback Dominic Quinones said. “It definitely could have just not happened at all (due to the pandemic), and we wouldn’t have got a chance to play our senior seasons and win a championship.”
The BDS defense had a big challenge with the Knights’ big running back Dane Pokorny (6-foot-3, 200 pounds). He had several big runs in the first half but got hit for short gains more in the second half. He finished with 111 yards rushing but didn’t have any touchdowns after having five in the semifinal.
Kleinschmidt led BDS with 142 yards rushing, including a 55-yard touchdown run that he broke several tackles.
The BDS program rotates playing its home games at fields in Bruning and Shickley. Playing at Memorial Stadium can be a once-in-a-lifetime oppurtunity, but winning a state title at home was nice, too.
“I’m from (Shickley), and we’ve never lost here, so I was telling the Bruning guys that this is the better field,” Kleinschmidt said. “When I heard it wasn’t at Lincoln, I was pretty disappointed. But then I realized it would be here and I got pretty excited. It was awesome.”
Sandhills/Thedford (12-1).....6 14 0 8—28
At BDS (12-0)........................0 14 6 16—36
Photos: 2020 High school state championship football games
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