Burwell bruises North Central in season opener
BASSETT — Run the ball. Stop the run.
Burwell made a big statement on the opening night of this year’s football season by applying that formula.
The visiting Longhorns, preseason Class D1 No. 9 according to the Omaha World-Herald, started three third-quarter drives inside the North Central 30, and turned those into 22 points to induce the running clock and defeat the Knights 35-0 here Thursday night.
“If you give a team as good as Burwell a short field that many times, they’re going to turn it into points,” North Central coach Ryan Richey said.
It was not what North Central, the preseason No. 8 team in Class D in the area, expected coming into this season.
A year ago, the Knights, a cooperative of Rock County (Bassett) and Keya Paha County (Springview) schools, enjoyed a 7-4 season that resulted in the team’s second postseason victory in its brief history.
“I was really proud of our defense. We had a couple of goal-line stands where we didn’t give it up. Offensively, we controlled the ball for the most part of the game,” Burwell coach Luke Gideon said.
He was right.
Burwell ran the ball on 46 of its 53 plays, gaining 216 of its 232 yards on the ground. Jase Williams, a 185-pound junior, rushed 23 times for 153 yards and two touchdowns, while senior quarterback Sage Konicek added 29 yards and two more scores.
North Central was limited to 133 yards of total offense, including 29 carries for 45 yards (1.55 yards per carry).
“We just weren’t able to establish the running game and get a couple first downs,” Richey said. “We didn’t stop the run as well as I thought we were capable of.”
North Central senior quarterback Jakob Heerten finished 7 of 19 passing for 88 yards and intercepted two passes while on defense before exiting briefly in the third quarter after suffering an injury to his midsection. Receiver Colton Munger also left with a leg injury in the second quarter. Richey said both would be evaluated later to determine the severity of the injuries.
Burwell appeared to snatch the momentum when senior lineman Colby Mitchell broke through to block a punt, and returned it to the North Central 8. Three plays later, Williams scored from a yard out for a 13-0 lead with 8:29 left until halftime.
The Knights responded with what turned out to be its best drive of the game, marching 13 plays and 61 yards down to the Burwell 4. On third-and-goal, Heerten threw a jump ball to Charlie Gale in the end zone, but it was picked off by Burwell’s Bode Jensen.
After forcing a punt, North Central got the ball back with 52 seconds left. A 16-yard catch-and-run by Trace Ebert and a 27-yard play to Zak Palmer put the Knights at the Burwell 19, but two incompletions and back-to-back sacks ended the half.
“We had a chance to get back into the game. The interception in the end zone when we were down 13-0 was huge, a big momentum swing,” Richey said.
It was a matchup of teams which have experienced recent success, more so for the visiting Longhorns.
North Central had made it to the playoffs six times since 2010. Burwell has reached the playoffs for 13-straight seasons, including the 2016 Class D1 championship, but it exited in the first round last year.
Burwell 7 6 22 0 — 35
North Central 0 0 0 0 — 0
BUR: Sage Konicek 4 run (Baptiste Reuze kick), 0:53.
BUR: Jase Williams 1 run (PAT failed), 8:29.
BUR: Konicek 9 run (Reuze kick), 9:59.
BUR: Williams 4 run (Reuze kick), 5:19.
BUR: Coy Gideon 4 pass from Konicek (Corey Dawe pass from Konicek), 0:27.