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Grand Island moves into first place

An anticipated slugfest between the top two schools in Class A North didn’t quite live up to its billing, as the Grand Island Vikings defeated the Starpoint Spartans by a convincing score of 33-7.

The word that best described the contest was “power”, in large part due to the Vikings using a myriad of running plays to cram the football down the Spartans’ throats and establish its dominance.

“We’re really proud of our kids and their effort tonight,” Vikings coach Dean Santorio said. “We lost a game last week where we made some mistakes, but we felt as if we let one get away a little bit. We knew that this was going to be a must-win for us tonight. To beat a team that’s undefeated and has won 17 in a row in our league… (Starpoint’s) a good football team, but our kids played really well and really tough.”

Running back Thomas Cecere was the beneficiary of a great performance by the Vikings’ offensive line, as their front five – led by Anthony Seifert, Kenny Yockey, Brandon Vedella, Henry Grunzweig and Donovan Cornelius – consistently blew the Spartans’ front-seven off of the ball and controlled the line of scrimmage.

“Thomas was fantastic tonight finishing his runs and our offensive line did a great job up front,” Santorio said. “We originally thought about going with more of a spread look and some no-huddle early, but we decided to run some more of our bread and butter plays instead – some counters, powers, traps and stuff like that –and because it was working, we stuck with it longer than we normally would.”

Cecere agreed.

“Without our line, there’s no way we would have won tonight,” Cecere said. “They opened up some holes tonight that were so huge, you could drive a truck through them. They played great.”

The Vikings kicked off the game with a five-yard touchdown run by Cecere less than two minutes into the first quarter to cap off a 65-yard drive and make the score 6-0. Later, Cecere scored again with 2:33 left in the first stanza of play on another run, this time from 12 yards away.

On the second play of the Spartans’ next drive, Aaron Chase and Max Bowden connected on a 65-yard touchdown pass to make the score 13-7 and briefly pulled the Spartans to within six points. However, the brief glimmer of hope provided by the long scoring play was quickly snuffed out.

Grand Island answered back early in the second quarter with a 50-yard pass from Cam Sionko to Zane Johnson that hit paydirt, and the rout was on. Cecere punched in another five-yard touchdown run a short while later – his third offensive trip to the end zone of the night – to make the score 27-7, and then scored again on a 69-yard interception return to make it 33-7.

“On that play, I’m either rushing the quarterback or I’m reading the screen,” Cecere said. “I saw the screen coming so I tipped it up to myself, caught it and just went full-steam to the end zone.”

The second half was mostly a defensive struggle, as the only opportunities for the Spartans to put points on the board came early in the third quarter and late in the fourth quarter. However, the Spartans were stopped both times on fourth down by the Vikings’ defense via an interception and a sack.

“They were just more physical than us today,” Spartans coach Al Cavagnaro said. “We couldn’t stop the run and we couldn’t capitalize on the scoring chances that we had. It wasn’t our day.”

The Vikings will take on Sweet Home next week, and Santorio knows his team will have their hands full with the Panthers. But he wants his coaching staff and players to focus more on what they can do to improve rather than on their opponents.

“Sweet Home’s always had a lot of great athletes,” Santorio said. “But I think we’ve got to worry about ourselves. We can’t get caught up in who they have and what they do too much, because we need to stay focused on what we’re doing on each side of the ball and on what we do best.”

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