An Omaha Burke fumble on the Bellevue West nine-yard line with 16 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter sealed the 35-28 win and a District title for the Thunderbirds.
Facing fourth-and-two from the eleven yard line, running back James Burks appeared to have enough to keep the drive alive and give Omaha Burke at least a shot at the end zone to tie the game. After breaking a tackle in the backfield, the ball came loose as Burks fell forward. It was recovered by a Bellevue West defender, ending the comeback bid.
The late error was a lone black mark on an otherwise stellar night for Burks who finished with 225 yards on 31 carries and two touchdowns. Burks ripped off a 91-yard touchdown run in the 3rd quarter that tied the game at 21, after Omaha Burke had fallen behind 14-0 in the first quarter.
Quarterback Joe Dolincheck led the Thunderbirds on a 15-play, 80-yard drive, capped by a 15-yard pass to Shane Smith, on the game’s opening possession. Burke receiver Darnel Davis mishandled the ensuing kickoff, setting up a second Bellevue West touchdown drive.
A Dolincheck’ pass to Evan Keiser preceded a Jeyvon Ducker touchdown run to open the early two-score lead. Dolincheck, the second-leading passer in Class A, struggled with the windy condtions at times and finished 20 of 40 for 270 yards and three touchdowns.
On Burke’s next possession, a drive that spanned the first quarter break, the offense found rhythm. After driving nearly the length of the field with methodical running by Burks and quick passes, Quarterback Tyler Chadwick faced a heavy rush, but hit Steven Elloie for a 10-yard touchdown to make it 14-7.
Bellevue West answered with a drive of their own, finished by another Ducker touchdown run, this time from the Wildcat formation.
Chadwick led the Bulldogs back onto the field, trailing 21-7. After finding leading receiver Xavier Watts on two short completions, he unleashed a 41-yard bomb. Watts made the catch and outraced defenders to the end zone, cutting the deficit to seven heading into the halftime break.
Following the Burks 91-yard run to tie the game at 21, Dolincheck went back to work. His great pump fake allowed Smith to get behind the Burke defensive back, where he easily snagged his second touchdown, this time from 25 yards out.
A fourth-quarter touchdown run by Burks from six yards out knotted the game at 28, but Bellevue West’s offense, as it had done all night, answered the bell.
At the Burke 25-yard line and facing a heavy blitz look from an attacking Burke defense, Dolincheck appeared to change the play at the line of scrimmage. Ducker slipped in behind the pass rush as Dolincheck floated a pass just over the outstreched arms of 6’6″ defensive end Chris Hickman. Ducker secured the catch, after batting it up in the air initially, and followed his convoy of linemen into the endzone for the go-ahead score with 4:00 remaining. Ducker racked up 157 yards on the ground and 51 through the air while scoring three touchdowns.
The Burke offense gave itself a chance, driving deep into Bellevue West territory before the game-deciding turnover.
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