Story By Grand Island Independent
Photo By Casey Page/ Billings Gazette
BILLINGS, Mont. — The Nebraska Danger's eight-straight losses seem like a distant memory and because of that, they will be playing in a game they have played in for years.
The Danger topped the Billings Wolves 64-52 Saturday at the Rimrock Auto Arena in Billings to secure their fourth-straight conference title appearance. The win was just the second-road playoff victory in franchise history.
In his second game in a Danger uniform, Derrick Bernard opened the game 8-for-8 and finished 13-for-15 for 190 and five touchdowns while a group of defenders made big plays down the stretch, snagging three turnovers.
Late-game collapses have hounded the Danger this season, but 20-unanswered points in the second half flipped the script and helped secure the win.
The Wolves struck instantly to start the game when former Danger player Chip Reeves brought back the opening kickoff for a touchdown.
The Danger answered themselves with kickoff return from Davis that got them within the Wolves five-yard line. Two straight quarterback takes from Bernard did not amount to much. Armand Nance finally punched it in with his first carry of the season to help even up the game.
On the ensuing Danger possession, Bernard and McCombs were moving the ball efficiently out of the backfield. Facing a third down, Bernard coughed up the ball on a keeper that was recovered by the Wolves for the Danger's only turnover.
Similar to the Danger, the Wolves left an opportunity on the field, turning the ball over on downs inside the Danger five-yard line.
The Danger immediately made Billings pay. Bernard tossed a perfect pass to a streaking Davis for a 46-yard score.
On the next Wolves' possession, thanks to some pressure from new linebacker Roosevelt Falls, Adrian Davis snagged an interception on the Billings 13-yard line. McCombs took a run up the gut to put the Danger up 20-7.
For the remainder of the first half, Nebraska did not have the defensive success they enjoyed early as Billings strung together a pair of scoring drives to cut the Danger lead to 30-27.
With just 10 seconds left in the first half, Bernard found Thomas in the end zone for a 20-yard score. Bernard's second touchdown pass of the game put the Danger up 37-27 at the break.
The Wolves came out of the half with a stop, and a touchdown to swing some momentum. The Danger were only able to answer with an 18-yard field goal from Josh Gable.
With the ball and a chance to take the lead, the Wolves gave the ball away when Jabari Gorman snagged his eighth interception of the season.
On the Danger's first play following the interception, Bernard found Davis again on a deep route for a score. Billings' defense appeared broken on the play, with a mix of confusion after a fake toss from Bernard.
Things kept spiraling for the Wolves. Jamerson Love picked off Billings quarterback Cory Murphy again, setting up a 22-yard field goal from Gable.
Following yet another big defensive stop, the Danger settled for another field goal that Gable made. Unfortunately for Billings, they were called for an illegal blitz which gave the Danger fresh set of downs.
Bernard found Thomas once again in the corner of the end zone for the dagger. For good measure, Bernard found once again Thomas on a play-action pass to ice the game late in the fourth quarter.
The Wolves scored twice in the final 31 seconds but it was not enough.
Nebraska travels to play the Spokane Empire (12-4) Sunday, July 17 at 6 p.m.