GRAND ISLAND – The Islanders are looking to keep their dramatic playoff run going as they head on the road for their semifinal clash with No. 3 seed Bellevue West on Friday night.
Grand Island came from behind for the second time in as many playoff games against Millard South last week, taking its first and only lead with 1:43 remaining to knock off the No. 2 seeded Patriots 27-24.
“We fought awful hard. We had to make some adjustments in the way we were paying some of their options,” Grand Island Head Coach Jeff Tomlin said. “Once we made those adjustments we were able to hold our own a little bit more defensively against the run and then offensively I just felt like we kept momentum in the second half…”
While getting in a first half hole is something the Islanders hoped to have remedied after the first round playoff game against Omaha North, Tomlin says both victories have given his players an added confidence in their abilities.
“It helps the confidence. We prefer not to fall behind. I know our kids aren’t going out there with that plan, and neither is our staff, but we know we’re never out of the fight. I think that’s important. Obviously our goal every week is to start fast, and to score first, and those types of things, but sometimes life doesn’t work out that way and you’ve got to fight out of the bottom. We like the grit in this team and they’ll continue to do that.”
It will be another challenging test for the Islander defense as Bellevue West boasts an electrifying offense with a 2,300-yard passer in Evan Kieser, a 1,600-yard rusher in Jevyon Ducker, and a pair of dynamic receivers in Shane Daily Jr. and Zavier Betts who have gone for more than 1,000 and 750 yards respectively and combine for 24 scores.
“They’re very balanced, run to pass ratio is about fifty-fifty so they can get you both ways,” Tomlin explained. “Defensively they’ve got motors. They get up and go…They always tackle well…Special teams-wise they give you a lot of different looks you have to defend…Everybody at this juncture is really a solid football team, and they’re no different.”
With a chance to return to the state final for the first time since 1990 there is plenty of buzz around the community, and while it’s exciting Tomlin shared that he isn’t allowing the outside noise to distract him or the team.
“There’s a lot of folks that are in our corner and rooting for us and that’s good. I try to stay pretty much sequestered and just focus on getting our team prepared so I’m kind of a hermit in that manner…But we feel the support that people have for us and we’re very appreciative, very grateful for that support.”
The contest will be broadcast live on NCN TV (Spectrum cable channels 99 and 715 in Grand Island, and Cox cable 1116 in the Omaha area) and streamed online via the NFHS Network for a monthly subscription fee of $9.95. Live coverage of the contest begins at 6:40 PM.