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The Student News Site of Gretna East High School

The Wingspan

The Student News Site of Gretna East High School

The Wingspan

Season overview: Promising season halted by heartbreak

Future looks hopeful
After+the+game+slipped+through+their+hands+in+the+last+seconds+of+the+game+against+Seward+on+Oct.+20%2C+juniors+Luke+Johnson+and+Carter+Lightwine+and+sophomore+Logan+Kracht+join+head+coach+Justin+Haberman.+
Drew Rhoades
After the game slipped through their hands in the last seconds of the game against Seward on Oct. 20, juniors Luke Johnson and Carter Lightwine and sophomore Logan Kracht join head coach Justin Haberman.

Seasons aren’t meant to be decided on the final play of the game, but on an unseasonably warm Oct. 20, it happened to the varsity football team. It was a win-or-go-home game as the Griffins took on the Seward Bluejays, one of the top Class B teams in the state. 

Momentum was up with 10:20 left in the game as junior running back Mason Gunn dove in for a Griffin touchdown and took the lead, 31-28, for the first time in the game. The momentum was stagnant for the next eight minutes of game play. Then, with 3:29 left, Seward drove down the field but halted and were put in a tough position with it being fourth down and ten to go. They were able to convert and after three straight stops, it was fourth and goal from the four yard line. They got one play to either tie it or go home. It was a simple run-pass-option and Seward’s quarterback chose the pass option, ending the Griffins season with a 35-31 loss with six seconds remaining on the clock.

As a first year team, no one knew what to expect especially after starting the season 1-1. One unexpected change came after game three when freshman Chase Grow was promoted to starting quarterback, even after he was uncertain he would even make the team prior to the season starting. 

“It started off really hard in the summer,” Grow said.“I’m a freshman, I was practicing with the freshmen team and I knew I was better than that. Throughout the summer, they were telling me how I might get a varsity jersey soon, and then I got one.”

It was a slow start for Grow following a series of losses to Plattsmouth and Ralston taking their record to 2-3, but he showed his worth when the Griffins took down Lincoln Northwest 35-7. Grow had 110 yards passing along with two touchdowns through the air.  The excitement was short lived as the next two games ended in losses to Waverly and York leaving them at 2-5 on the season. Following this, they got a break from the action, with a bye week due to Lincoln Standing Bear not fielding a varsity team, causing them to forfeit the game. The extra week gave them the chance to go back to the basics ahead of playing Seward. 

“During the bye week, we started out with a whole tackling circuit,” junior edge rusher Frank Thomas said. “Second day was all technique with a tiny bit more tackling. The third and fourth days were the same thing.”

With a 3-5 record due to the forfeit, there was still hope of making the playoffs and extending their season. Each, making the playoffs comes down to a point system. Teams are given a certain amount of points for a win or close game and are eventually seeded based on the amount of points they have. Seward, who were the final team they played, was just inside the top ten in points, so if the Griffins were to win, they would have made the playoffs, but this did not come to fruition.

So there the Griffins were, with a storyline unlike what many first-year teams have faced. They were a first year team on their final leg, looking for a postseason birth. While those final six seconds crushed their playoff dreams, the game was evenly matched.

The Bluejays started the game off scoring on all three of their first-half drives, but it wasn’t over for the Griffins. Sophomore wide receiver Seth Kraegel had two big catches to help put points on the board. Down 21-10 at half, the Griffins needed a push to comeback, and they looked to all aspects of the game to find it. 

“We found out what we could attack and what we couldn’t attack,” wide receivers coach Dana Janssen said. “We did a pretty good job as an offensive staff finding ways to get our playmakers the ball in space and then outnumbering them in certain spots.”

Coming out of the break, the Griffins were lights out. Kraegel was again a popular target and took a reception down to the one-yard line. They punched it in, and with the help of a two-point conversion, the Griffins only trailed 21-18. 

Although the Bluejays went down and scored, the Griffins kept fighting. Junior running back Mason Gunn broke out a big run to take them into the red zone and then got another touchdown on the board to shorten the score to 28-25. Energy was still needed, and athletes like Grow stepped up and talked to the offensive line.

“After every play, I’ve told them that they’re doing like great,” Grow said. “If it was like a flag on them I would tell them it’s all right, next play, you’re fine, forget about it.”

Going into the fourth quarter, the Griffins stopped Seward and got the ball back. On the back of a few penalties, Gunn made the team’s final touchdown of the season, which was followed by the crushing conclusion of the game.

We accomplished things that no other first year team has ever done. Two freshmen and three sophomore’s on the OLine and a freshman QB. Our back is one of the best in the state and our WR’s are playmakers! All back next year![/pullquote]Even with the loss, there was much to be proud of and something to look forward to that not many other teams get to enjoy: there were no seniors meaning the Griffins will return with every player and more this offseason. 

[I’m] “Incredibly proud of this group!” offensive coordinator Shawn Blevins said in a tweet the next day.

Pullquote Photo

We accomplished things that no other first year team has ever done. Two freshmen and three sophomore’s on the OLine and a freshman QB. Our back is one of the best in the state and our WR’s are playmakers! All back next year!”

— offensive coordinator, Shawn Blevins

Also looking to the future, Grow plans to use this season’s conclusion as fuel for next year.

“I feel like we’re going to play with a chip on our shoulder next year,” Grow said. “We’re going to win a lot more games.”

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About the Contributors
Brody Heidemann, Sports Editor
Brody Heidemann is a junior at Gretna East and this will be his second year on an online journalism staff. He was on the Gretna Media staff at Gretna High last year. This year he is the GEHS Wingspan's Sports Editor. As a sophomore, Brody won third place in Yearbook Sports Feature Writing and also fifth in Sports News Writing at the NSAA High School State Journalism championships for Class-A. Brody enjoys participating in journalism because he is interested in learning about other people and likes being social. His goal for this year is to stay productive and keep stories coming out. Outside of school, he enjoys playing video games, working at Hy-vee and hanging out with friends. 
Drew Rhoades, Reporter
Drew Rhoades is a junior at GEHS and was on the Gretna Media staff at Gretna High last year.  This year he is on the GEHS Wingspan staff. He serves as a reporter and photographer. He won sixth place in Sports News Writing at the NSAA High School State Journalism competition. He joined journalism to take pictures of sports and write articles about them.  From taking great action shots to writing about a close game of football, Rhoades is always busy and working hard. Outside of journalism he plays golf, basketball and hangs out with his friends. While journalism is not something he plans on doing in the future, he still wants to use his skills throughout his life. 
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