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11/17/2013 - From The Press Box: GI/North Game A Great Cap To Football Coverage

 The high school football season wasn't over for me after Tuesday night's game at Ashland-Greenwood, in which Lincoln Christian fell 33-13.

Getting the call to come out of the broadcaster's "bullpen," I was asked to provide the play-by-play of the Class A semifinal with Omaha North at Grand Island on Friday.   I figured, "why not?"

The game, which was streamed through, was worth the 90-minute drive west.  Literally, this game could have gone either way.

North struck first with the state's top running back and Division I prospect Calvin Strong scoring on a 25-yard run.   But Grand Island responded with two touchdowns and a 14-7 lead before the Vikings tied the game at 14 just before halftime.

North struck first out of the break, possessing the ball for 6:15 of the third quarter and scored the go ahead touchdown for a 21-14 lead.  Within two minutes, the Islanders responded with another score but then Vikings scored and missed the extra point.

Grand Island regained the lead on their next drive in the fourth quarter.  But an interception thrown by Islander quarterback Pierce Almond and returned 75-yards for a touchdown by North's Cole Bixler gave the Vikings a 33-28 lead, with the two-point conversion failing.

Starting from their own 20-yard line, Grand Island's Jake Mayer broke free for a 79-yard run that set up a Braden Knuth 1-yard scoring run. 

North still had time to set up another scoring drive, which was capped on another run from Strong that ultimately gave the Vikings the win.  With a minute left, Grand Island started to drive from their own 20.  A few pass plays later and into North territory at the 37-yard line, Bixler picks up what turns out to be a fumble from Almond, who had the ball knocked out of his hands. 

Bixler returned it to the Grand Island 12-yard line, where the Vikings took a knee to end the game and move on to play Omaha Westside in the Class A championship Nov. 26.

Needless to say, a great game!  Even standing on top of the press box with the other members of the broadcast crew, it was worth seeing.

Practically, most of the games I called this season were blowouts.  Aside from Friday's game, the Millard North and Lincoln East game was a close second while Norfolk and Lincoln Southeast was third.

Grand Island and North had a championship-like atmosphere to it.  We'll see if the Class A title game will live up to that expectation.

Basketball Starts Monday

Practice for the high school basketball season starts Monday and there's a lot of talk of the Metro being dominant on the boys side. 

It seems that four-time Class A champion Omaha Central may not be picked as the pre-season favorite.  Omaha South and Omaha Benson could be in the forefront of Class A's best.  Norfolk may be back in the hunt again and we certainly can't dismiss Central.  Omaha North and Bryan may be decent and Bellevue West could be the other team from the Metro to emerge as another power.

In Lincoln, it's tough to say who could be dominant.  Southeast, Lincoln High and North Star may be the top three with Northeast (who didn't have a senior on the roster last season and suffered several losses by close margins) could be pushing their way into the mix.

Lincoln East could be athletic for opponents and will have a new head coach on the bench for the first time in 18 years, with long time JV coach Jeff Campbell taking over for Ed McPherren, who retired after 43 years of teaching and coaching.  Campbell is the third boys basketball coach in East's 47 years of existance.

Southwest, on the other hand, may be going through a rebuilding process after producing several athletic teams in recent years. 

Girls basketball could come down to Northeast, Southeast and Southwest this season.  We'll release our basketball previews coming up in two weeks and provide you an inside look at area teams to keep an eye on this year.

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