Bishop Heelan will play for their sixth state football championship on Thursday. Their last one came in '08, which ended a 26-year gap between titles. The Crusaders have been ranked first all season in Class 3A and are big favorites against number-6 Washington.
Heelan has gotten more dominant as they advanced in the playoffs -- outscoring their opponents 152 to 30. The Crusaders beat number-5 Harlan 31-nothing in the quarterfinals and then blasted number-4 Clear Lake 48-13 in the semifinals.
But Heelan lost in the championship game last season -- so they're not taking anything for granted.
"We've still got to find our best game," said Heelan head coach Roger Jansen. "A lot of people are saying that we may have played it in the semifinals. We're just challenging this team to see if we can't put another one together like we did last Thursday."
"Being there last year and this year it's really benefited us a lot," said quarterback Trent Solsma. "We're used to the environment, we're used to everything you've got to do before the game to prepare mentally so I feel like it's definitely helped us out."
While the offense gets most of the headlines, the defense has been sharp. They've given up just four touchdowns in four playoff games, and only two of those scores have come when the game was close.
They would prefer not to get into an offensive shootout on Thursday.
"I have a feeling they're going to try and throw the ball a little bit against us," said defensive coordinator Jerry Steffen. "I think they think we're going to stack up to stop the run in the beginning so I wouldn't be surprised to see a lot of play-action against us but we're prepared for all of it."
"Coach Steffen does a great job with game plans and basically telling us what we have to do to stop the other team," said senior Philip Jacobson. "We've been fortunate enough to do that so far."
Heelan and Washington play at 7 o'clock on Thursday night. Win or lose, Heelan will welcome home the team on Monday night at 7:00 PM in the gym.
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