As the closing seconds ticked off the clock, the cheers that had been building finally erupted.
Students rushed onto the field to embrace members of the Schuyler football team, which accomplished something Friday night that hadn't happened in five years.
The Warriors beat South Sioux City 21-18 to snap a 45-game losing streak.
It was the final game of the season, the last opportunity for the seniors to taste victory.
The celebration that followed the nerve-wracking finale showed the victory was pretty sweet, not only for the players and coaches, but the entire school.
Schuyler's winless drought was the second-longest active streak in the state and longest in 11-man football.
“It’s been a process. Of course we’ve had a lot of ups and downs with our program. We’ve had doubters, we’ve had negative people, but our kids stuck together. We’ve been a family the whole way. We knew it was going to come together. We knew this moment was going to come,” said Schuyler head coach Aaron Thumann.
The victory didn't come easy.
South Sioux City, which hasn't won a game since beating Schuyler 54-6 in last year's regular-season finale, led 12-7 at halftime.
Thumann didn’t have to say anything to his players during halftime to get them motivated. They motivated each other.
“They knew it was their turn. They were confident all week. We had a great JV win on Monday and that just helped fuel the fire. Our seniors were like, ‘This streak is done,’” Thumann said.
Senior quarterback Kevin Contreras said the Warrior players believe in each other and think of themselves as a family.
He also gave credit to the coach who has stood with them as they tried to get that elusive win.
“I just feel like all the hard work we’ve put in for four years has paid off. Our coach has been our head coach for four years. We were the class that has been there the whole time. To us, he’s our guy,” Contreras said.
Schuyler scored twice in the second half to build a 21-12 lead.
With less than five minutes to play, the Cardinals scored a touchdown to pull within a field goal.
South Sioux City made one final push with time running out, but couldn’t convert on a fourth-down play.
The Warriors took a knee to run the final seconds off the clock.
Then the band, cheerleaders and students lined up near the sideline rushed onto the field to celebrate. Thumann was doused with water by his players. Tears of both joy and relief were shed.
“I’m so hyped right now, but I’ll probably be crying later,” senior Jackson Settles said.
His classmate Mason Kovar was already in tears.
“There’s nothing better than having two seniors come out with a win on the final game of the season,” he said.
The two said they had a feeling the team would break through this year because this group of players is special.
Kovar believes the victory will have a lasting impact.
“It’s a big boost of confidence, not only for us but for the underclassmen and everyone else. It’s amazing and I think it will carry on to next season,” he said.
“It means only positive things. Our kids know they can be successful. They know they don’t have to lose anymore. It’s not that way anymore. We deserve to win and we are going to win,” he said.
Thumann and his players were prepared for a tough game with both teams giving it their all, but the opportunity meant more to the Warriors.
All week, Thumann said he heard the same thing from his players — “We got this, coach.”
They did have it, and Thumann gave all the praise to his players for accomplishing something no Schuyler team had since 2012.
“To me, it is about these kids. There is nothing more that I wanted for these kids than this moment right here because they worked so hard," he said. "You go around and people would say that it’s just another football game. But no, this is not just another football game. This is our time."
Schuyler Community Schools received the 2017 NebraskARTS award for its dedication to the arts.
The local school district was selected for its use of the arts to support students who are new arrivals to the United States. This support allows students to participate, engage and express themselves while minimizing issues with language barriers.
Superintendent Dan Hoesing, who nominated SCS for the award, wants his students to view themselves as talented artists.
“These kids can look at a beautiful work of art and wish they could produce something as significant artists,” Hoesing said. “I want to be able to turn that mirror on them so as to say, ‘You are that amazing artist.’”
Hoesing said the arts have a way of bringing students together, no matter the cultural differences.
“With complex language barriers often associated with new arrivals, it is the arts that allow them a level playing field to participate, engage and express themselves through clay, paint, pen, song, acting and dance,” he said. “Art classes allow students of all levels to create and express their talent through works of art that depict their thoughts, fears, hopes and dreams as cultural influences come alive on our own walls.”
Schuyler Central High School art teacher Michael Trotter said his students are something to be proud of.
“These kids are just feeding off of their own momentum,” Trotter said. “In other classes there isn’t a real outlet for self-expression, so they can let it out here. They’ve never had the chance to be weird with their art before.”
Last school year, SCHS students earned 11 honors through the Scholastic Art Awards of Nebraska and two students received a Gold Key award, advancing their work to a national competition.
“On the local level, we had art shown in art galleries in Columbus and David City,” Trotter said. “These guys are finding out that success breeds success.”
SCS received the NebraskARTS award Oct. 18 during a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda along with Seward Public Schools.
LINCOLN — Wheels up.
Sen. Bob Krist embarked last week on his 2018 gubernatorial campaign, piloting a turbo-prop aircraft that took him soaring west on a bright October morning to launch his independent bid.
At stops from Scottsbluff back to Lincoln, the Omaha state senator pointed to high property taxes as the issue concerning most Nebraskans and suggested that it's time to "start to rebalance" the load shared by property, sales and income taxes.
But Krist also cited his legislative record and centered on the nature of his gubernatorial bid, pledging to provide "independent leadership" not beholden to partisanship or political party interests.
And, he said, he would "like to restore separation of powers" in state government, promising to work cooperatively with the Legislature and "stay out of the election of state senators."
Nebraska's nonpartisan Legislature has turned more partisan in the last few years, Krist said, while Gov. Pete Ricketts has provided endorsements and campaign funding for challengers to some incumbent senators who have not fallen in line with his wishes.
Krist has changed his party registration from Republican to nonpartisan and will avoid a GOP primary confrontation with Ricketts next May by forming a new party — which probably will be named Nebraskans United — to offer Nebraska voters an independent choice a year from next month.
The nine-year legislative veteran can gain access to the general election ballot next year through a petition process that requires about 5,000 signatures gathered statewide.
"The Republican Party has tried to kick me out and take my card away two or three times," Krist said, because of its displeasure with his independent nature and performance as a state senator.
Krist made media-centered stops in Scottsbluff, North Platte, Lexington, Holdrege and Lincoln during the initial phase of a two-day campaign tour, touching down at wind-swept airports across the state.
A 21-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force with more than 15,000 hours of military flight time, Krist piloted a Merlin 111B turbo-prop aircraft on Wednesday's tour.
During his first stop, at the Cappuccino and Company coffee shop in Scottsbluff, Krist introduced himself to western Nebraskans, suggesting that "what you see is what you get."
"Do I have all the answers?" he asked. "I do not. But I have a lot of ideas."
At North Platte, he said his initial campaign tour will allow voters to "put a face to the name."
Krist said his nine years in the Legislature give Nebraskans "a voting record to measure," one that includes efforts to protect health and human services and enact prison reforms.
"People and property taxes are my priorities, in that order," he said. "And I am a fiscal conservative."
"I'm not a stranger to bucking the system a little bit," he added. "I've never stayed completely in the box."
Krist said he is "passionate about the nonpartisan Legislature" and that he as governor would be "accessible to senators and talk to them about their ideas" early in the legislative process.
At one stop, Krist suggested that "we are starting to emulate the Kansas model and that is not where we want to go" in terms of state tax and budget policy.
During a live television interview at the NTV studio near Kearney, Krist said his candidacy "offers Nebraskans another choice" next year.
Ricketts is a slam dunk to win the Republican nomination for a second four-year term. Democrats have not yet fielded a candidate.
Krist said he is not close to naming a lieutenant governor running mate.