Islanders set for playoffs against Prep
By Dale Miller
Both teams carry momentum into Friday’s Class A first round playoff game between No. 10-rated Grand Island Senior High and No. 8 Omaha Creighton Prep.
The Junior Jays (7-2) have won six of their last seven, with the only setback coming to undefeated Kearney. They blasted Lincoln Northeast 63-0 last week.
The Islanders (6-3) have won three in a row, including victories over No. 9 Lincoln Pius X and Lincoln Southeast, the first team left out of the playoff field.
Kickoff at Benson Stadium is set for 7 p.m.
“I think we’re playing with a lot of confidence,” Islander coach Jeff Tomlin said. “We’re battle tested — we’ve had a heck of a schedule. I can’t think of a Class A district tougher than ours from top to bottom.
“Our guys just compete their hearts out week-in and week-out. So I think we’re very confident in what we can do, and we’re playing pretty good in all three phases.”
Tomlin said Creighton Prep is a challenging opponent, but that’s what you expect when it comes to the postseason.
“We know that anybody in this stage of the game when you’re in the playoffs is going to be a good team,” he said. “Prep is no exception.
“They’re a very good team, very similar to the team that we just faced (Lincoln Southeast), which makes preparation carry over a little bit. That’s good, but we know that we have to play our best football.”
Creighton Prep averages 260 yards rushing and 131 yards passing.
“Prep’s very well coached,” Tomlin said. “They’re fundamentally very sound. They have good special teams. They are a power running team and that’s their forte. They run the ball really well, so we’ll need to defend the run. But they throw with a great percentage and high accuracy, so we won’t forget about the passing game.”
Junior Luke Sims has rushed for 692 yards and 15 touchdowns on only 87 carries. Sophomore Reid Burke is 65-for-110 for 974 yards with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions.
The Junior Jays also pose problems with their defense.
“Defensively they don’t do anything fancy, but they come after you and they’re very aggressive,” Tomlin said. “We’ll need to have our eyes up for blitzing linebackers.
“We’ll need to do some good things pass protection and run blocking-wise. We’ll have to get some yards after contact so our backs have to keep their legs going.”
This is the fifth postseason meeting between two programs that are Class A playoff regular participants. The Junior Jays last missed the playoffs in 1994 and the Islanders have only missed the field once in the past 14 seasons.
“Guys aren’t awe-struck by the playoff experience,” Tomlin said. “They know what to expect. We have them conditioned to go into the postseason. Our bodies are feeling good. I feel we’re stronger than we were in the preseason as far as strength. We’re developing some depth, so all things are going pretty well.”
The only down side is one recent injury that will cost the Islanders some depth at running back.
Timo Sikes is out after breaking his same collarbone against Lincoln Southeast for the second time this season. He had played in the last three games and picked up 67 yards and two touchdowns after originally being injured in the season opener at Kearney.
Otherwise the Islanders are healthy, and they’re ready to hit the road for the sixth time this season.
“Our kids travel well,” Tomlin said. “We’re used to going to Omaha, we’re used to going to Lincoln, North Platte, all over the place. This won’t be much of a change of routine for us at all. It’s a new venue, but it’s always exciting to play in a new venue.”
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