East Butler’s bad-weather football game turned out to be a bad experience as well.
The good news for the eight-man Class D-1 ratings contenders, however, is that the 6-0 home loss to Palmer on Oct. 6 on Senior Night had no lasting effects, even though it knocked the Tigers out of the top 10. The Tigers came back for lopsided road wins at High Plains (94-36) and Nebraska Christian (44-8) to finish the regular season 6-2 and advance to the 32-team playoff field.
They will host Hartington-Newcastle (5-3) on Thursday in the first round.
“That game was pretty frustrating,” said senior quarterback Dalton Bohac, who has passed for 1,308 yards and 15 touchdowns and rushed for a team-high 646 and another 13 TDs this fall. “It got us pretty mad for our last two games.”
Palmer scored the only points of the game with 19 seconds left. Those final 19 seconds were never played because the game was suspended at that point, then never restarted, because of lightning.
“There was so much mud, our line really couldn’t get the footing to make a push, and the ball was so wet, it was really hard to throw it or catch it,” Bohac added. “If we run into conditions like this in the playoffs, hopefully we’ll be more prepared for it.”
East Butler’s only other loss on the season was a 26-20 setback to No. 1 Howells-Dodge in the opener. The week before the loss to Palmer, East Butler handed Nebraska Lutheran the only blemish on its record in a 50-28 triumph.
“Both of our losses were by six points, so we feel we’re right there with the top teams,” said Bohac, one of eight seniors on the team. “We feel like we’ve improved a lot during the season. We’re a more physical team than we were at the beginning.”
With 6-foot-2, 210-pound all-state senior tight end/linebacker Trevor Havlovic leading the way, that part of the game is never an issue. Havlovic is East Butler’s leading receiver with 44 catches for 627 yards and seven TDs, while also registering 91 tackles defensively with an interception and fumble recovery.
Brandon Rezac, a 5-10, 215-pound lineman, leads the Tigers in tackles with 106, including 18 in the win over Nebraska Christian on Thursday.
“I’ve played together with Trevor so long, we’re always on the same page in the passing game and I know where to find him,” said Bohac, a 5-10, 150-pounder who has 56 tackles defensively.
“Trevor is our big-play leader on defense. He brings the physicality to it and gives everyone else the confidence that they can make the big hits as well.”
The other seniors East Butler relies on are running back/defensive back Carter Stara, running back/linebacker Ryley Spatz, tight end/defensive back Camden Robley, running back/linebacker Wilson Wright and lineman Jakub Janak. Stara, who has rushed for 459 yards and caught 27 passes for 291 yards, injured his knee against Nebraska Christian on Thursday.
“I think everything is in place for this team to make a run (in the playoffs),” East Butler coach Shawn Biltoft said. “Not too many things catch this senior group off-guard. They have a lot of experience in the playoffs, so they know how to handle playing in the big games.”