NORTH PLATTE — The Kearney High football team ran away with the District A-3 championship Friday night at North Platte.
The Class A No. 8 Bearcats beat the Bulldogs 31-14 at Bauer Field. The Bulldogs were trying to snap an 11-year drought against Kearney.
North Platte’s season ended Friday night while KHS will wait to see who they face in the first round of the state playoffs next Friday.
"We know they’re a good football team, but we thought we could beat them," North Platte head coach Todd Rice said. "Unfortunately, we couldn’t get them off the field offensively, but give our guys credit because they never quit trying."
Despite opening the game with an 8-minute, 13-second drive that ended with a Dalton Caley touchdown pass from 11 yards out to Ryan Kaminski, the Bulldogs struggled slowing down Kearney’s high-powered offense.
The Bearcats churned out 337 yards of total offense, which included a game-high 211 rushing yards and three touchdowns from Miko Maessner en route to scoring 28 unanswered points.
"Miko is a game-breaker," Rice said. "He made some plays on us early and it really set the tone for them offensively."
Given just over three minutes in the first quarter after North Platte’s 8-minute drive, the Bearcats turned to Maessner, a Princeton football commit, in equalizing the game by punctuating a 50-yard drive with a three-yard dive into the end zone.
In the second quarter, Kearney struck again by forcing a North Platte punt and punching in a 6-yard touchdown carry from Alex Kemp to take the lead, which they never allowed the Bulldogs to take back.
North Platte finished the half with two crucial turnovers, which included an interception that Kearney parlayed into another Maessner touchdown carry from a yard out. The score solidified a 14-point lead over North Platte at halftime.
And Kearney would waste no time in the second half, turning to Maessner again, who burst past North Platte’s defense for a 55-yard touchdown run in the opening minute.
The Bulldogs forced two stops and two long drives that extended half of the third quarter and part of the fourth, snapping their scoring drought with 8:38 left in the game on a three-yard carry from Cody Wright.
Trailing 28-14 after their touchdown, the Bulldogs gambled on recovering an onside kick against the Bearcats, which they initially did until a debated decision by the referees to overturn the ruling helped Kearney retain possession.
The Bearcats drove down the field, shaving more than four minutes off the game clock before drilling a 23-yard field goal that sealed the win for KHS.
Kearney (7-2) 7 14 7 3 — 31
North Platte (3-6) 7 0 0 7 — 14
N: Caley to Kaminski on a 11 pass (PAT is good)
K: Maessner on a 3 run (PAT is good)
K: Kemp on a 6 run (PAT is good)
K: Maessner on a 6 run (PAT is good)
K: Maessner on a 55 run (PAT is good)
N: Wright on a 3 run (PAT is good)
K: 23 field goal