LAUREL — The Class D No. 9 Lutheran High Northeast Eagles completed an undefeated regular season and captured the district D1-6 title on Friday night with a 46-14 win over No. 3 Laurel-Concord-Coleridge.
The Eagles are now 10-0 against the Bears since they consolidated ahead of the 2012 season. It’s Lutheran High’s first undefeated regular season in eight years and its first district title since 2018, its last year playing 11-man football.
“These guys just keep fighting. They find a way to win games,” coach Darin Suckstorf said, “Our theme this year was ‘Rise Together,’ and I think we rose about every time together as a team.”
Lutheran High opened the game with a touchdown on each of its first two possessions of the game. On the Bears’ second drive with second and 7 at their own 33, quarterback Evan Schmitt fumbled the snap and the Eagles pounced on it.
Three plays later, Keaton Ranslem took it in for his first touchdown of the day, then added a two-point conversion run for good measure.
The orange and black cracked Eagle territory on their next drive but were stalled at the 24-yard line. After the teams traded three-and-outs, Lutheran High answered on its first play of a drive that started at its 19, as Ranslem found a seam and took it to the house again.
The scores were among three by the senior running back, who led the blue and white with 29 carries for 228 yards, many of which came on direct snaps. As a team, the Eagles ran for 260 yards.
“I was just playing for my teammates. I didn’t want to let them down by taking plays off,” Ranslem said. “So I just tried to make the most out of every play.”
Quarterback Landon Johnson was second with 15 carries for 16 yards and a touchdown. Through the air, the sophomore completed four of nine passes for 67 yards and three touchdowns. The first-year starter was happy to be able to come through when it mattered most.
“I came into the regular season knowing I had to step up,” he said. “I’ve got to do it for the seniors and my team, so it feels good to do this.”
Laurel-Concord-Coleridge was without running back Evan Haisch, who sustained an undisclosed injury the day of the game. The senior had totaled 1,345 yards and 23 touchdowns on 138 carries this season.
“It makes a big difference when you take a 1,000-yard back off the field, and I don’t want to use that as an excuse in any way shape or form,” coach Alan Gottula said. “Their kids played hard. It’s next man up.”
Gottula saw that Lutheran High was able to get under his team on the line of scrimmage, which led to the big hole early on. Still, he liked what he saw out of his team, considering the circumstances.
“I’m very proud of our kids. We asked a lot of kids to do things they’d never done before, and they found a way to do it,” he said. “They never gave up. They competed and we can use that as we move into the playoffs.”
Both teams now await to see where they will be seeded in the upcoming Nebraska state football playoffs.
Lutheran High (8-0) 20 6 0 20 — 46
LCC (6-2) 0 0 8 6 — 14
LNE: Landon Johnson 1 run (PAT failed), 9:28
LNE: Cort McKeown 10 pass from Johnson (PAT failed), 3:30
LNE: Keaton Ranslem 18 run (Ranslem run), 0:30
LNE: Ranslem 61 run (PAT failed), 6:58
LCC: Jake Rath 2 pass from Evan Schmitt (Lucas Rasmussen run), 2:19
LNE: Josh Rojas 20 pass from Johnson (PAT failed), 11:49
LNE: McKeown 32 pass from Johnson (PAT failed), 11:30
LCC: Wilton Roberts 50 pass from Schmitt (PAT failed), 10:13
LNE: Ranslem 1 run (Ranslem run), 1:01