The 14-seeded Kearney High football team traveled to Bellevue West to play the 3-seeded Thunderbirds in the Class A state playoffs on Oct. 26, 2018. It was win or go home for both teams on the chilly fall night. The Bearcats were able to get a stop on the first drive, which forced a Bellevue West punt. The punt was fielded by senior Trey Rodriguez at the five-yard line and he was immediately tackled. On the first play for the Bearcat offense, junior Miko Maessner mishandled a pitch from senior quarterback Brayden Miller. Maessner recovered the ball in the end zone, resulting in a safety.
Near the end of the half, senior kicker Gabe Heins attempted a 53-yard field goal. The kick had the distance, but it missed just a little to the left. After the first half, the Bearcats had managed to hold the high-powered Thunderbird offense to 0 points. The Bearcat’s only miscue was the safety, which left the score at 0-2 Bellevue West at the half.
The Bearcats were able to get into scoring position once again in the third quarter, but Heins missed a 50-yard field goal that would’ve put them ahead. Four plays later, the Thunderbirds would finally get the ball into the endzone on a 28-yard screen pass from quarterback Evan Kieser to running back Jevyon Ducker. Following a successful two-point conversion, Kearney was down 0-10.
On the next drive, the Bearcats set up Heins for a 33-yard field goal, which he made to bring the score to 3-10. Following a close first three quarters, the fourth was bound to be just as exciting.
After many opportunities near the goalline, Miller was able to run the ball in for a touchdown with 1:14 left to tie the game at 10 a piece. Despite the momentum, the game was not over yet. On 2nd and 20 with 52 seconds left, Ducker was able to break a tackle and run free on a 68-yard gain down to the two-yard line. On the next play, Ducker scored to give the Thunderbirds the lead at 17-10. The Bearcats were not able to answer as they lost and ended their season with a 5-5 record.
Miller went 20-40 for 135 yards passing and had 15 carries for 89 rushing yards and a touchdown. Maessner had six carries for 14 yards. Juniors Seth Stroh and Braden Rich led the receiving effort as Stroh had five catches for 45 yards and Rich had seven catches for 44 yards. Senior Jeremiah Hagemann led the team in tackles with 11 and senior Corbin Foster followed with 10.