GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — Adams Central made the most of its ground game Friday night as the Patriots rolled past Grand Island Central Catholic 38-14.
The Crusaders found themselves unable to control running back Buzz Niederklein, who piled up 246 yards and three touchdowns, and allowed Adams Central to burn a lot of time in the second half once the Crusader offense got back on track.
The second quarter proved to be the Crusaders’ undoing. Adams Central (6-1) scored three times in less than five minutes.
Niederklein broke loose for a 51-yard scoring run for a 10-0 Adams Central lead. On the next play from scrimmage, a bad snap went past Central Catholic quarterback Alex Allen. Kendall Oberheide’s recovery put the Patriots at the Crusader 17. Three plays later Niederklein scored from the 6.
On their next possession, the Crusaders (5-2) quickly moved near midfield, but Adams Central was able to force a fumble and again make the recovery. Quarterback Dylan Steinkruger, who only had three completions in the game, went downfield to wideout Derek Lonowski at the 35, who broke loose for a 61-yard touchdown, pushing the lead to 24-0.
Crusaders coach Charlie Shoemaker said that the second quarter pushed his team into a deep hole that they didn’t have enough time to escape from.
“You can’t do those kinds of things against a team like this,” he said. “But we’ve kind of done this to ourselves all year. We need to get better and stop hurting ourselves. Early in the game, we were moving the ball, but we had a lot of dropped passes.
“I was glad that we were able to execute much better in the second half, but once their running game got going, it was tough on the defensive guys.”
Things looked more grim as the Patriots took the second-half kickoff and moved to a first down at the GICC 11. However, Steinkruger lost the handle and Logan Greenwalt recovered for the Crusaders.
GICC spent nearly half of the third quarter moving the ball to midfield before turning it over on downs, then got it back on a fumble recovery.
This time Allen and the Central Catholic offense were able to maintain the drive. Greenwalt hauled in a 20-yard fade deep in the end zone in the final seconds of the third period.
The Patriots wasted little time in responding. Niederklein broke another long run, going 25 yards to the Crusader 11, and two plays later fullback Jack Barry finished the drive. The Crusaders responded with a relatively quick scoring drive, as Allen found Youhanna Ghaifan for an 8-yard touchdown pass.
The Patriots added one more touchdown from Niederklein, who averaged 7.7 yards per carry, to finish off the game.
The win gives Adams Central the district title and an automatic playoff berth.
Adams Central (6-1) ............................ 3 21 0 14—38
At Grand Island CC (5-2) ............................ 0 0 6 8—14
AC: FG Weiss 31
AC: Niederklein 51 run (Weiss kick).
AC: Niederklein 6 run (Weiss kick)
AC: Lonowski 61 pass from Steinkruger (Weiss kick)
GICC: Greenwalt 20 pass from Allen (pass failed)
AC: Barry 12 run (Weiss kick)
GICC: Ghaifan 8 pass from Allen (Allen run)
AC: Niederklein 6 run (Weiss PAT kick)
RUSHING: AC, Niederklein 32-246, Barry 9-50, Steinkruger 4-7, Lonowski 3-(-5). GICC, Puncochar 9-23, Pfeifer 1-11, Tynan 1-3, Allen 13-(-10).
PASSING: AC, Steinkruger 3-6-0-85. GICC, Allen 22-33-0-181.
RECEIVING: AC, Lonowski 2-62, Halsey 1-23. GICC, Ghaifan 8-75, Brokaw 5-36, Pfeifer 4-24, Greenwalt 2-39, Tynan 2-3, Lukasiewicz 1-4.