LINCOLN — A near-perfect game for the perfect finish to a perfect season.
Humphrey St. Francis finished one of the most dominating eight-man football seasons in fitting fashion Monday afternoon here at Memorial Stadium in a 70-16 smashing of Pleasanton for the Class D2 championship.
The best way to sum it up came in the middle of a sentence that coach Eric Kessler offered in the middle of praising senior quarterback/safety Trevor eam Pfeifer.
“It was just our year,” Kessler said.
For that matter, it was the three-year starter Pfeifer's day, too.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound senior and preseason Super Six athlete — who still does not have an official offer to play college football next fall — threw three touchdown passes, rushed for a game-high 100 yards and three more touchdowns, and intercepted two passes on defense.
“I knew we could take care of business,” Pfeifer said.
How perfect was St. Francis?
In the first half, the Flyers possessed the ball six times on offense. They scored eight points at the end of each possession. Forty-eight points.
On the flip side, the Bulldogs had the ball seven times: punt, interception, punt, punt, interception, interception, end of half. Seven drives, zero past the St. Francis 37.
After that, it didn't matter how perfect the Flyers were. A 48-0 halftime lead will do that to a game.
In fact, the only St. Francis possession that did not end in points came midway through the fourth quarter.
Kessler was willing to offer whatever coachspeak to help explain what happened: “We were a focused group, very prepared. watched a lot of film, dialed in,” he said.
That perfection may have been the end product of the Flyers' pursuit of consistency week-in and week-out.
“Every week, no matter who we were playing, if we were playing a team that maybe had the best record or a team that did not, we came and did the same thing each week, worked hard and got better,” Kessler said. “We really did that.”
Either that, or it was the result of many years of hard work.
Just ask senior lineman Dylan Wemhoff, who had the game's only sack and a pass breakup defensively. On the offensive line, Wemhoff and company helped pave the way for a 378-190 advantage in total offense, including minus-3 rushing yards for Pleasanton.
“It's taken years of hard work,” he said. “In junior high … I think that's when we realized we had a special group. From freshman year till now, we worked so hard in the weight room. I mean, everybody has. It's great. It's a lot of years of hard work paid off.”
“We knew we could do this, and that's why we worked so hard for this,” Pfeifer added.
Outside of edging Falls City Sacred Heart 24-16 in last week's semifinals, the closest game all season for the undefeated Flyers was a 54-26 victory over Plainview in the regular-season finale. But St. Francis won a quarterfinal rematch 64-20 — which was still two touchdowns closer than the championship game.
Despite that, Kessler said the team wasn't buying any talk of the semifinal being the de facto title game.
“We heard a lot of people saying that,” he said. “We just didn't buy into that. This was the biggest game we could play in. We were going to play well, and we were focused on that.”
AFTER THE first St. Francis drive ended with a Taylor Wemhoff plunge into paydirt, Trevor Pfeifer accounted for the next six Flyer touchdowns, including the first drive of the second half.
“You never expect something like this,” Kessler said. “I did expect us to play well and I did expect us to take care of business. I'm just really proud of our senior class. They really stepped up and played well today.”
Of course, there were chances the game could have turned into, well, a game. Two times in the first quarter, St. Francis had fourth down inside Pleasanton territory, when a stop would have likely changed the momentum of the game. But on both times, the Flyers' fourth-down conversion also was a touchdown.
The first time came four plays after Trevor Pfeifer had intercepted a Jakson Keaschall pass at the Pleasanton 22, but the next three plays had gained just six yards. On fourth-and-4 at the 16, Trevor Pfeifer rolled out to his right and found younger brother Tanner Pfeifer just beyond the first-down marker, and the younger Pfeifer cut up the sideline for the final 12 yards before diving across the goal line.
“The run game set up the pass game,” the elder Pfeifer said. “It left some of our play-action passes wide open because the run game was going so good.”
On the next possession, the duo connected again on fourth down. This time on fourth-and-7 at the 23, Trevor looked left and threw to Tanner on a flag route to the pylon for a 24-0 lead with 12 seconds left in the first quarter.
“Trevor's started for us three years at quarterback. I knew he'd play well,” Kessler said. “He played well in the semis. … He was ready to go as well.”
In the meantime, the Pleasanton offense sputtered with two first downs until its final drive of the first half.
The Bulldogs' best chance came with the Flyers leading 40-0 with 5:29 left in the first half when it gained 35 yards in a span of five plays down to the St. Francis 35. But on second-and-1, Dylan Wemhoff and Kolbe Classen stuffed a run for no gain, and Tanner Pfeifer stuck Treven Wendt for a 2-yard loss on third down. Trevor Pfeifer picked off a pass on fourth down with 47 seconds left.
That's when St. Francis stuck the dagger. Trevor Pfeifer threw a strike to Taylor Wemhoff down the Pleasanton sideline, and Wemhoff was dragged out at the 1. Pfeifer snuck it in on the next play for a 48-0 halftime lead. St. Francis scored again three plays into the third quarter on Trevor Pfeifer's third touchdown run of the day, and the team's reserves finished out the game.
St. Francis (13-0) 24 24 6 16 — 70
Pleasanton (10-3) 0 0 8 8 — 16
HSF: Taylor Wemhoff 4 run (Wemhoff run), 6:59.
HSF: Tanner Pfeifer 16 pass from Trevor Pfeifer (Wemhoff pass from Tr. Pfeifer), 4:52.
HSF: Ta. Pfeifer 23 pass from Tr. Pfeifer (Tr. Pfeifer run), 0:12.
HSF: Tr. Pfeifer 2 run (Ta. Pfeifer run), 9:00.
HSF: Landon Kush 5 pass from Tr. Pfeifer (Ta. Pfeifer run), 5:29.
HSF: Tr. Pfeifer 1 run (Kaden Hackerott run), 0:36.
HSF: Tr. Pfeifer 9 run (run failed), 9:57.
PLE: Kessler Dixon 1 run (Tyce Westland pass from Jakson Keaschal), 6:28.
HSF: Austin Leifeld 1 run (Spencer Engel run), 11:58.
PLE: Westland 16 pass from Keaschal (Dixon pass from Keaschal), 2:11.
HSF: Haustyn Forney 53 run (Isaac Classen run), 1:24.