Class A No. 1-rated Grand Island Senior High rolled past Lincoln Northeast 9-1 in the first round of the District 2 tournament Tuesday, but there were still some moments of concern for the Islanders.
All the Grand Island starters except for goalkeeper Danny Gamboa got pulled off the field at Memorial Stadium near the midway point of the first half with the Islanders up 2-0.
The starters met with the coaching staff behind the bench area and had a discussion that lasted several minutes.
The main topic, Islander coach Jeremy Jensen said, was a lack of focus.
“I think the kids came out incredibly flat, and with that I think they were focused on things like padding statistics and things that are unimportant compared to how we play,” he said.
“I looked up at one point and we had four guys across their back line. We play with one forward. That showed me our kids weren't focused on playing tactically like we teach them to. So we pulled them off and talked to them.”
Lincoln Northeast (1-17) got its lone goal while the Islander starters were out. Gamboa made a big save for the Islanders (17-0), but the Rockets got a corner kick, and Nathanial Green eventually scored at 19:40.
“They were a little upset about being on the sideline when we allowed a goal to go in,” Jensen said. “It was good for them. I'm glad it happened.”
But then the Islanders' 10 starters returned, and they made a quick impact. Less than a minute after retaking the field, they started an offensive explosion of three goals within a span of 1:47 to up the lead to 5-1.
Cheyenne Covarrubias started it off by converting on a penalty kick, Saul Castillo got his second goal of the game after Rocket keeper Casey Stuart couldn't get a handle on the ball, and Nacho Castillo scored off a Lucas Venegas assist.
That got the offense going again after it had stalled after Venegas and Castillo had made it 2-0 just 6:44 into the match.
“They're obviously incredibly talented, but trying to keep focused isn't always the easiest thing,” Jensen said. “They understand the standings, they understand the previous two games we had against that team. It's easy for high school kids to lose focus on something like that.
“It was nice to see them come back out and play that well. They understand they have to play better if they want to keep advancing in the state tournament.”
Jesus Martinez, Jose Escalante, Jose Haro and Carlos Villegas added goals in the second half. The G.I. starters sat out after halftime and rested up for Thursday's 6 p.m. championship match against Omaha Burke.
“We've got 22 guys on our district roster,” Jensen said. “We've got our first 11 and we've got a second 11. They understood that as soon as we had the game in hand or we were playing well, (the starters) were coming off. It didn't matter if it was 15 minutes into the first half or 30 minutes into the second half. We were going to secure the win and then try to get them off as quickly as possible.
“Obviously you don't want to have an injury or anything like that, plus it gives the younger guys an opportunity to play. It's nice to be able to look out there and see five freshmen playing for us in a district varsity match. It's a luxury the kids have earned. It's good for us.”
Omaha Burke 5, Omaha North 3
Third-seeded Omaha Burke advanced to the Class A, District 2 tournament championship match with a 5-3 win over second-seeded Omaha North Tuesday at Memorial Stadium.
The teams got into a scorefest early. Omaha Burke (7-8) led 2-0 just 5:08 into the game when Ryan Anderson scored from point-blank range and then Logan Gier put away a Talon Gier cross.
But Omaha North (11-7) made it a one-goal game just 44 seconds later on a Daoong Vang score.
Burke went up 3-1 when Noel Rangel banged in a rebound of a Jake Peterson shot at 24:27, but Vang struck again off a Mark Wallace feed at 32:29.
The Bulldogs built their lead to 4-2 at 60:45 when Logan Gier got to a loose ball in front of the goal and deposited it in the back of the net.
But again the Vikings answered, this time on a 30-yard direct kick from Eduardo Corona at 64:06.
Burke got an insurance goal at 70:13 on Daniel Vasquez's shot from just inside the box that sliced into the top left corner and this time held onto its two-goal advantage.