Creighton blasts Bobcats, heads to D1 championship game
CREIGHTON — By controlling both sides of the line of scrimmage, the Creighton Bulldogs put a hurt on Exeter-Milligan/Friend on Monday night and advanced to next week’s state title game in Lincoln.
The Bulldogs’ 72-26 domination helped Class D1’s top-ranked team improve to 12-0 on the season and qualify for Monday’s 2:45 p.m. game at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Memorial Stadium against Burwell.
“I’m really happy with how our kids did today; they put in a heck of a week of preparation, and they just played their hearts out,” first-year coach Zac Kliment said. “I love this team; I can’t say enough about them.”
Kliment, who went to high school at Creighton, understands the importance of what was accomplished by the Bulldogs on Monday.
“For me, as a former high school player here, we were always knocking on the door and never quite got there,” he said. “I wasn’t a part of the two teams that made it to the finals, so it means a lot to all of us — especially as a community — to get back down there.”
Once again, the Bulldogs’ formula was tough, physical play.
Offensively, hard-running cousins Bryce and Brayden Zimmerer powered through holes produced by a senior-led line of JD Kuhlman at center, with Travis Tyler and Cameron Tyler manning the guard positions. Defensively, Creighton didn’t allow E-M/F’s talented backfield to get a ground game established, while forcing and recovering three fumbles by the Bobcats.
As a result Creighton pounded the E-M/F for 326 first-half rushing yards — with Brayden accumulating 126 yards on 18 carries, including a one-yard touchdown run, and Bryce adding 188 yards on 14 tries, which included three touchdowns. They all came en route to a 48-8 lead at halftime.
“With the weather being as it was, we kind of had to pound it today. We couldn’t really mix it up with the pass as much, but those Zimmerer boys and that offensive line blocking for them deserve the credit,” Kliment said.
Quarterback Brayden Zimmerer did open scoring for Creighton with an eight-yard touchdown pass to Brenden Waldow to cap a 10-play, 65-yard drive and would connect later with Thad Hazen for a 47-yard score.
Trailing 8-0 early, the E-M/F’s’ night went from tenuous to disaster when the Bobcats fumbled on their second offensive play, leading to a Brayden Zimmerer touchdown and a 16-0 Creighton lead.
Then, after punting following a three-and-out on its next possession, E-M/F fumbled on its next two possessions as well, and the Bulldogs scored immediately after both.
The Bobcats’ only points of the half came when running back Edwen Baptista, who was limited to just 32 rushing yards on eight carries in the first half, picked up a Creighton fumble and returned it 62 yards for a touchdown.
“They (Creighton) played really well, and I wish them luck,” Bobcats coach Dean Filipi said. “Their whole team got after things, and they played hard. They definitely won it out here on the field.”
The Bulldogs’ defense didn’t let circumstances improve for E-M/F after intermission, with Bryce Zimmerer picking off an E-M/F pass on the third play of the third period, then scoring from the nine-yard line on Creighton’s second offensive play for a 56-8 Bulldogs lead.
Although Baptista produced his squad’s first offensive touchdown with a three-yard run midway through the third period, Creighton added Brayden Zimmerer’s second touchdown run — a 16-yarder — to go up 64-14 as the third quarter ended and both teams turned the game over to reserves.
“The senior class has really stepped up big time for us this year; we’re always in the weight room at six in the morning lifting,” Bryce Zimmerer said. “We touch a picture of Memorial Stadium in our locker room before every game since week one; that’s (state championship) been our goal — we just keep going down each step, so we’re at the last step now, and we’ve got to get the job done.”
The Bulldogs now will prepare to take on Burwell, which defeated North Central 23-22 in a nail-biter Monday night.
“This is something that these kids have been working for a long time; this senior group that we have had a lot of success all the way through youth football to this level,” Kliment said. “This is definitely something they deserve for how hard they’ve been working.”
Class D1 semifinal
Exeter-Milligan/Friend (11-1) 0 8 6 12 — 26
Creighton (12-0) 16 32 16 8 — 72
CRE: Brenden Waldow 8 pass from Brayden Zimmerer (Brayden Zimmerer run), 6:44.
CRE: Brayden Zimmerer 1 run (Brayden Zimmerer run), 2:26.
CRE: Thad Hazen 47 pass from Brayden Zimmerer (run failed), 11:01.
CRE: Bryce Zimmerer 50 run (Brayden Zimmerer run), 8:50.
EMF: Edwen Baptista 62 fumble return (Spencer Pribyl run), 5:56.
CRE: Bryce Zimmerer 21 run (Hazen run), 5:02.
CRE Bryce Zimmerer 56 run ( Hazen run), 2:44.
CRE: Cameron Tyler safety, :47.
CRE: Bryce Zimmerer 9 run (Bryce Zimmerer run), 8:50.
EMP: Baptista 3 run (pass failed), 5:21.
CRE: Brayden Zimmerer 16 run (Brayden Zimmerer run), 1:00.
EMF: Baptista 18 run (run failed), 11:52.
EMF: Slater wells fumble recovery end zone (run failed), 8:00.
CRE: Caden Wortman 54 run (Wortman run), 6:07.