Two teams that regularly outscored opponents by large margins all season will try to discover ways to keep each other out of the end zone Monday in the Eight Man-2 state championship game.
Mullen and Johnson-Brock both are 12-0 heading into Monday’s 10:15 a.m. title game at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. The Broncos do most of their damage on the ground, averaging 299.8 yards per game rushing and 83.4 yards in the passing game.
Johnson-Brock comes in with a more balanced attack that favors the passing game 228.6 to 159.9. Both approaches have produced the desired result — a chance to play for a state championship.
“We’ve always been kind of a running program for the most part,” Mullen coach Mitch Pfeiffer said. “We have a really good bunch of seniors this year and they have set their sights on having a season like this.”
Mullen’s offensive workhorse has been Lane Edis, who is averaging 216.5 yards per game. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound running back has rushed for 2,598 yards on 283 carries, 42 of which have ended in the end zone.
Quarterback Brady Gracey has completed 56 of 108 passes for 1,052 yards and 15 touchdowns against two interceptions. Zac Sweet has caught 28 of those passes for 473 yards and five touchdowns; Edis leads the team with six TD catches.
The Broncos haven’t won a state football championship since 2003, when none of these players were yet in kindergarten. That’s why Pfeiffer said the goals the Broncos have set throughout the season have been the most important part of the process.
“We don’t look at how long it’s been. We’ve been learning and growing as the season has progressed,” Pfeiffer said. “Defensively we’ve just needed to do a better job getting off blocks. We had a good season last year, but we lost in the semifinals.
“We had a few players back from last year, but it didn’t come easily. Our schedule was pretty challenging from the get-go.”
The Broncos opened the season with a 52-12 win over Hemingford and scored a season-high 58 points in a win over Brady. Their closest game during the regular season was a 42-40 victory over Medicine Valley.
Johnson-Brock’s closest game was a 52-46 shootout over Falls City Sacred Heart to end the regular season. The Eagles scored fewer than 58 points just three times, with their lowest total coming in a 50-18 opening night victory over Elmwood-Murdock.
The Eagles scored 80 or more points twice — an 80-0 win over Lincoln Parkview and an 82-3 victory over Pender. This is the first state championship game appearance in school history, a fact coach Mitch Roberts said isn’t lost on the Eagles.
“They’ve wanted this since they got knocked out of the playoffs last year,” Roberts said. “The guys want this really bad, and they’re driven to end this thing the right way.”
Johnson-Brock was 4-4 last season but won two games in the playoffs before being eliminated in the Eight Man-1 quarterfinals. It’s an experienced group with three senior offensive linemen who Roberts said do a good job of pass protection and run blocking.
“A lot of these guys were on the basketball team that finished third at state last year,” Roberts said. “They’re confident in their abilities and that we really do belong with the top-tier teams.”
Senior quarterback Cole Fossenbarger has started since the third game of his sophomore season and has completed just more than 70 percent of his passes for 2,640 yards. Fossenbarger also has thrown 52 touchdowns and has not had a pass intercepted this season. Ty Hahn is a dangerous receiver with 55 catches for 1,049 yards and 22 touchdowns.
The running game is led by Dylan Rowe, who has rushed for 553 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Roberts said he isn’t concerned that his squad will be awe-struck by the atmosphere of Memorial Stadium.
“I guess we’ll find out when we get there,” Roberts said. “We want them to soak in the surroundings because these kids have been dreaming about this since they were really little. I think they’ll get past that and view it as another game.”
Johnson-Brock vs. Mullen, 10:15 a.m. Monday
Radio: B103 (103.1 FM, b103.fm and ncnsportsnow.com)
When No. 2 Johnson-Brock (12-0) has the ball: The ball is airborne with quarterback Cole Fossenbarger, a 70-percent passer who’s thrown for 220 yards a game. Of his 52 touchdowns, 22 have gone to junior Ty Hahn (1,049 yards) and 13 to sophomore Kaden Glynn (808). Dylan Rowe keeps defenses honest with 553 yards and 14 touchdowns rushing. Ty Kvanvig’s 113 tackles lead Mullen.
When No. 1 Mullen (12-0) has the ball: The ball is staying with Lane Edis, whose 307 yards in the semifinal comeback win at Lawrence-Nelson pushed his season rushing yardage to 2,596 with 42 touchdowns. He has 51 overall. Brady Gracey has thrown for 1,052 yards and 15 scores. Defensive lineman Seth Moerer’s 96 tackles lead the Eagles.