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10/06/2013 - From The Press Box: Mother Nature's Nasty Influence On Football Game

When severe weather threatened the Lincoln area Thursday night, safety took priority at Seacrest Field.

As we carried the Norfolk/Lincoln Southeast football game, Mother Nature's game plan took over and her offense dictated the outcome of the more football.

The storm that prompted the game to be suspended developed over Saline County, southwest of Wilber.  In no time, it grew and prompted tornado warnings to the southwest of Lincoln.  As the storm moved northeast, thunder, lightning and rain made its presence over the area around Seacrest.  Once Norfolk scored the touchdown to go ahead 20-9 over Southeast with 1:08 left in the third quarter, the game was suspended.

At the time, Southeast principal Brent Toalson and athletic director J.J. Toczek were in the broadcast booth with me awaiting to get updated information from the radio station I work for, KFOR 1240.  Once I heard the information about the storm warnings, Toalson and Toczek went into action.  Seacrest Field was immediately evacuated and many fans headed home, while others stuck around inside their vehicles.  Once it was announced that a tornado warning was issued just southwest of Lincoln, people were told to go to nearby East High School to take shelter. 

Around 9:45pm, the game was called for the rest of the night and resumed Saturday morning at 11am over at Lincoln High's Beechner Athletic Complex.  From there, the nasty part of the storm took over and began unleashing its fury southeast of Lincoln.  An EF2 tornado damaged homes on a 16-mile path that started near Hickman and moved northeastward toward Bennet and lifted north and west of Palmyra.  Fortunately, no one was hurt.

Still, Southeast officials did the right thing by sending everyone home for the night.  Good call.

In terms of the game, not so good for Norfolk.   When the game picked up Saturday, the Panthers had a 20-9 lead to begin the fourth quarter.  Southeast, who did some retooling during the layover period on Friday, came out with a quick attack before settling for a 31-yard field goal with 10 minutes left in the game.  After trading possessions, Southeast put up an 81-yard drive and capped it with a four-yard touchdown pass to Logan Beebe, who also completed the two-point conversion.  That forced a 20-all tie and overtime. 

Norfolk had to settle for a 25-yard field goal attempt in the first overtime possession, which missed wide right.  Then Southeast scored on the first play on the 10-yard run into the end zone for Hunter Johnson to complete the comeback and earn the victory.

Mother Nature plays no favorites, but in this case, it was Southeast that earned her love.  It certainly wasn't the way Norfolk wanted to finish the game but there was no choice.  Safety comes first.

Give Norfolk credit.  They are a very good football team, in fact, they are a dangerous team with their style offense and defense.  I have them out of the ratings this week, but will likely return if they win out the rest of the regular season.  I was fully convinced of their talent against Lincoln Pius X and even against Southeast.  Sophomore quarterback Gunner Fuelberth will be a guy to watch the next couple of years.

Tornadoes in October

Although not common, tornadoes have hit during October in Nebraska.  Thursday night's outbreak in southern Lancaster County didn't stop Mother Nature from acting up on Friday.  Late in the day, a massive EF4 tornado in the south and east sides of Wayne in northeast Nebraska, injuring 15 people.   The community of just under 10,000 people (including Wayne State College) is in the process of cleaning up and help is needed.  Join the Facebook page "Wayne, NE Tornado Recovery" by clicking on the link below.

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