LINCOLN — Barrett Ruud and his Lincoln Southeast teammates were just too good for Grand Island Senior High on Thursday.
Ruud displayed the talents that earned him a football scholarship from the University of Nebraska while powering Southeast to a 28-3 win. He thrilled a Seacrest Field crowd of 2,032 by dominating on both sides of the line of scrimmage for the first and second-ranked Knights (8-0).
"Probably the best high school player I've ever seen," said Grand Island coach Mark Fritch. "Coaching at a place like Grand Island you get to see athletes like that.
"He is a great athlete."
Ruud scored three touchdowns while rushing 16 times for a game-high 113 yards from his I-back spot. He was equally dominant at linebacker, where he helped Southeast squash upset hopes by eighth-ranked Grand Island (6-2) in a hurry.
"I like watching him play," said Southeast coach Chuck Mizerski. "I'm sure everybody else does, too.
"He's really fun to watch play."
Mizerski then added, "If anybody in the state is better than Barrett we haven't seen him."
Tough running by Ruud and New Mexico State recruit Tony Irions staked Southeast to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Grand Island fell behind by three touchdowns before Adam Maser kicked a 25-yard field goal with one second left in the half.
"We knew in order for us to have a chance we needed something special to happen," Fritch said. "If we could have picked up one of those fumbles and taken it back we put a little pressure on them and we got a chance.
"That didn't happen."
Maser's field goal was set up by a fumble that was recovered at the Southeast 14-yard line by Grand Island's Mike Kuzma. Southeast quarterback Nick Bahe fumbled as he was hit while preparing to throw a pass.
That turnover was the lone scoring opportunity for Grand Island. The Islanders did have chances to sustain drives in the second half but chose to punt rather than try a fourth-down conversion.
"Grand Island comes in the leading defensive team in the state. We got four touchdowns," Mizerski said. "Our defense was good. Our offense was solid and our special teams came up with that huge play.
"That really broke their backs. That's really disheartening when that happens when you're hanging in there 14-zip."
The play Mizerski was referring to was a fake punt that resulted in a 32-yard gain by Southeast's Jordan Bowling. Bowling took the snap instead of punter Jake Muhleisen and earned the Knights a first down that set up Ruud's second touchdown.
"They're definitely a physical football team," Fritch said. "In my opinion that's their strength.
"They have good speed. But the physical style of play is impressive."
Grand Island's leading rusher was Jared Goodwin, who carried 19 times for 63 yards. Fullback Kalan Jones carried 13 times for 55 yards.
Both players found themselves encountering Ruud all too often.
"We thought we could run our hard toss and sweep series outside of him," Fritch said. "Even when he plugged inside he ran us down from the backside which is a credit to their defensive ends for stringing it out a little bit."
Mizerski said the absence of Grand Island quarterback Casey Samuelson enabled Southeast's defense to gang up on the run. Samuelson didn't suit up for the game because of a knee injury that also kept him out of last week's game against Fremont.
He was replaced by Maser, a junior who completed two of four passes while being intercepted once.
"We felt 10 (Maser) wasn't as good of thrower as 13 (Samuelson)," Mizerski said. "That gave us a little advantage. We could play the run a little more."
Ruud picked up chunks of yardage up the middle against a Grand Island defense that was trying to force him outside. The 6-foot-2, 222-pound senior showed good quickness and cutting ability for a player that is being projected as a linebacker in college.
"At times we did a great job of blowing up their off-tackle play," Fritch said. "We knew if we could get it to bubble we had a chance.
"Even then the athleticism and strength of Ruud prevailed at the perimeter."
Grand Island (6-2) 0 3 0 0-3
Lincoln SE (8-0) 14 7 7 0-28
LSE—Barrett Ruud 1 run (Trevor Neeman kick)
LSE—Tony Irions 8 run (Neeman kick)
LSE—Barrett Ruud 9 run (Neeman kick)
GI—Adam Maser 25 field goal
LSE—Barrett Ruud 4 run (Neeman kick)
First Downs 6 20
Rushes-Yards 36-118 52-308
Yards Passing 21 67
Total Offense 139 375
Att.-Comp.-Int. 2-4-1 5-8
Net Punting 8-26 2-37
Fumbles-Lost 3-0 3-1
Penalties-Yards 2-11 3-20
Rushing—GI: Maser 4-0, Goodwin 19-63, Jones 13-55; LSE: Irions 12-54, Barrett Ruud 16-113, Bowling 1-32, Johnson 2-19, Bo Ruud 9-59, Bahe 2-minus-10, Rigoni 1-minus-5, Ritchie 7-28, Degenhardt 2-8.