CREIGHTON, Neb. — The tradition following Creighton Bulldogs football games is to set off fireworks at Bill Harder Field. But on a frigid and windy Wednesday night which was even accompanied by some snow flurries, it wasn’t the hosts that enjoyed the postgame display.
Instead, it was the Osceola/High Plains Stormdogs, who, behind a second-half comeback, advanced to the quarterfinals of the Class D-1 playoffs with a 46-32 win.
Osceola/High Plains, a No. 4 seed, allowed Creighton’s talented athletes, Brayden Zimmerer and Thad Hazen, to get loose early and trailed the defending state champs and No. 12-seeded Bulldogs 24-6 towards the end of second quarter. But the Stormdogs, led by seniors Keaton Van Housen and Dylan Soule, wound up outscoring the hosts 40-8 from that point on.
Van Housen, who came into the game with 1,406 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns, was the Stormdogs’ hammer in the run game all night long. The 5-foot-11, 187-pounder scored on runs of 9 and 6 yards and caught a 27-yard touchdown from his senior quarterback, Soule, with just 1 second left before halftime, which cut their deficit to 24-14 at the break. Soule, who had three short sneaks for touchdowns, was chased out of the pocket on the play, but kept it alive long enough to find Van Housen while evading Bulldog defenders.
That touchdown pass seemed to spark the comeback, Stormdogs’ co-head coach Greg Wood said after the game. But so was cutting down on the holding penalties, which hurt Osceola/High Plains multiple times in the first two quarters, killing long drives.
“The biggest thing was we started to play our game in the sense of taking away the penalties — that was the huge part,” he said. “I really think that if we don’t have the penalties in the first half, we probably would have had a lead going into the half instead of the other way.”
Things went the Stormdogs’ way in the second half, and almost immediately, too.
Zimmerer fumbled the ball at the mesh point of a handoff with his running back on the third play of their opening drive, and Osceola/High Plains’ junior Carson Watts recovered. Two plays later, Van Housen scored from 9 yards to put the Bulldogs’ lead to just 24-22.
Creighton responded, however, as Hazen ripped off a 47-yard run on the next series, but that’s when the running lanes started to close for the hosts, who didn’t score the rest of the game.
“We came out in the second half and were getting three, four, five kids to the ball. That’s a difference maker,” Wood said.
After a Stormdog drive that was capped with a 1-yard sneak from Soule, who entered Wednesday with 1,202 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns, Osceola/High Plains got a stop on defense when Van Housen tracked a Zimmerer pass in the secondary and picked it off.
A steady dose of pounding runs from Van Housen followed, and Soule barreled over the goal line for a short touchdown, giving his team its first lead of the game, 38-32, with eight minutes left in the fourth.
Osceola/High Plains’ defense continued to do its job, as players like Watts and Kyle Sterup stood their ground. The Stormdogs got a key stop on fourth down deep in Creighton territory, which eventually led to Van Housen’s 6-yard touchdown.
The mental part of the game is what Wood challenged his team to change at halftime.
“It’s tough enough to beat a team like this at their home place, with all of their tradition, and then you have to go through and battle against all of the mental mistakes we made,” Wood said. “We came out in the second half, those mistakes didn’t happen, and it changed the game offensively and defensively.”
Osceola/High Plains will host top seed and undefeated Howells-Dodge (10-0) at 6 p.m. on Tuesday in Osceola.
Osceola/High Plains (8-2) 6 8 16 16 — 46
At Creighton (6-4) 16 8 8 0 — 32
C: Thad Hazen 58 pass from Brayden Zimmerer (Caden Wortman run)
OHP: Dylan Soule 1 run (two-point no good)
C: Hazen 29 run (Wortman run)
C: Zimmerer 63 run (Wortman run)
OHP: Keaton Van Housen 27 pass from Soule (Van Housen run)
OHP: Van Housen 9 run (Van Housen run)
C: Hazen 46 run (Wortman run)
OHP: Soule 1 run (Van Housen run)
OHP: Soule 1 run (Van Housen run)
OHP: Van Housen 6 run (Van Housen run)