Grand Island Central Catholic may have feasted on the mistakes made by the Milford Eagles, but they still had to overcome a bundle of miscues to take a 27-14 victory Friday night.
The Crusader defense generated six turnovers, including four interceptions, and limited Milford to just 65 yards rushing. Unfortunately for Central Catholic, it gave up a pair of costly turnovers as well, and surrendered an even 100 yards in penalties, as both teams struggled with consistency.
Things started oddly as the opening kickoff by the Crusaders (2-1) sailed high and short and died on the turf as soon as it hit. Logan Greenwalt recovered the ball at the Milford 14, and three plays later Jackson Tynan broke through the right side for a seven-yard run just 27 seconds into the game.
After holding Milford (0-3) to a three and out, GICC regained the ball, but on third and long at its 24, quarterback Alex Allen was ambushed and the ball came loose. Cody Burkhardt grabbed the ball and took it the other way to tie the score.
Things didn’t get any better, as the next Crusader possession ended with an interception just two plays in. Finally late in the quarter Central Catholic caught a break when Brady Brokaw returned a punt 25 yards to the Crusader 45.
The Crusaders moved downfield, aided by a highly creative 24-yard run by John Pfeifer, for a first down at the 15. This time Allen sneaked over from a yard as GICC regained the lead, in spite of the interception, two fumbles and three penalties in the first 15 minutes.
"Fortunately for us, they fumbled the opening kick and we scored early," Crusader coach Charlie Shoemaker said. "We had so many things go horribly wrong for us early in the game, but you have to be able to respond in those circumstances."
The game was dominated by the defense for all but one play of the second quarter, and that play cost the Crusaders the lead at halftime. Eagles quarterback Scott Olson found Berke Roth behind the Crusader defense dropped the ball in his arms for a 52-yard touchdown and a one-point lead after two quarters.
Milford’s inability to run the ball against the Crusaders’ front seven paid off for GICC in the second half as the Eagles turned to the air with decidedly mixed results. A bad snap on the first series of the third quarter was recovered by the Crusaders, and Allen made Milford pay as, rolling left under heavy pressure, he threaded a pass to Phoenix Stevenson in the front corner of the end zone.
Later in the third, the Crusaders got their first interception of the game as Brokaw picked off a pass at the 10 and returned all the way to the Milford 32. The drive stalled and GICC could only watch in frustration as a 38-yard field goal bounced dead off the right upright.
The Eagles regained possession but three plays later Brokaw again stepped in front of an Olson pass and this time returned it 42 yards for the score. Two of Milford’s final three possessions also ended in picks, as Milford’s pass protection struggled against the Islanders’ defensive push.
"I thought in the second half we were starting to get some rhythm established on offense," Milford coach Marty Hingst said. "We came back from them scoring early and we got the scoop and score from our defense. But this is the second week in a row that we’ve played well int he first half and ended up shooting ourselves in the foot in the second. We just have to stop doing it."
Shoemaker agreed that the game was dominated by both defenses, as Allen faced heavy pressure, especially off the backside, all night long, and the Crusader running game was just effective enough to keep the offense going.
"We knew they’d be a tough defense," he said. "Big front four, and they’re really athletic. At times they really got off against us. We have to do a better job up front with our protection.
"Defensively we were real solid. We got a good pass rush, and that started withour guys up front. They did a really nice job controlling the line and keeping them off our backers. We hurt ourselves with penalites tonight - that’s a discipline issue. That’s the difference between an exceptional playoff team and one that goes one and out."
Milford .................... 7 7 0 0 — 14
GICC ...................... 13 0 6 8 — 27
GICC — J. Tynan 7 run (Reilly PAT kick), 11:33.
M — Burkhardt 18 fumble recovery (Olson PAT kick), 9:05.
GICC — Allen 1 run (PAT kick failed), 0:00.
M — B. Roth 52 pass from Olson (Olso PAT kick), 5:54.
GICC — Stevenson 19 pass from Allen (PAT pass failed), 10:22.
GICC — Brokaw 42 interception return (Ghaifan PAT pass from Allen), 9:05.
RUSHING — Mil, Stauffer 13-39, Olson 15-13, Carritt 2-4, B. Roth 3-4, Havlat 1-3, N. Roth 1-2. GICC, J. Tynan 11-42, Puncochar 12-34, Pfeifer 4-20, Boon 1-9, Allen 7-(-1), S. Tynan 1-(-1), Wiens 1-(-3).
PASSING — Mil, Olson 9-17-3-107, Carritt 1-3-1-11. GICC, Allen 11-22-1-85.
RECEIVING — Mil, B. Roth 5-79, Stauffer 2-2, Mitchell 1-15, Carsten 1-11, Ring 1-11, GICC, Pfeifer 3-16, Stevenson 2-28, Ghaifan 2-15, Greenwalt 1-8, Krajicek 1-7, Lukasiewicz 1-7, J. Tynan 1-4.