Riverside High School completed its four-year run in Nebraska Six-Man Football with a fourth straight state championship Thursday, outlasting fellow unbeaten Harvard 46-38 at the University of Nebraska-Kearney’s Foster Field.
The victory was the 37th straight for the Chargers, the longest current streak in any class of Nebraska high school football, and tieing Arthur County (2009-12) for the longest win streak in state six-man history. Riverside compiled a 43-1 overall record in its four years of six-man competition, losing only to area rival Spalding Academy in the school’s first year of existence (a loss the Chargers avenged in the 2014 championship game). The fourth consecutive championship broke a tie with Arthur County, which also had a previous streak of three straight titles.
Quite a list of accomplishments, for sure. The Chargers were not thinking about accomplishments or legacies in Thursday’s fourth quarter, however. There was no time, as Riverside (11-0) concentrated on surviving a spirited challenge from a tough Harvard (10-1) squad.
Prior to the contest, Charger Coach Joe Imus had noted that Harvard would be, in his opinion, the best team Riverside had faced in 2017. He expected his team would need to play four quarters to earn a final six-man victory before shifting to eight-man football in 2018.
He couldn’t have been more correct. The Chargers needed to perform right into the final seconds Thursday to secure the decision.
Harvard’s second-half charge from a 46-24 deficit left usually-dominant Riverside in an unusually tenuous position late in the game. In fact, the Chargers were forced to punt for the very first time in 11 2017 contests. Imus noted after the contest that his starters hadn’t punted in three years!
“We don’t work on it,” Imus told reporters. “Thankfully Harvard called time out, so we could go over a formation. It was a little nerve-racking.”
Protecting its 46-38 lead, Martinsen’s boot traveled just 15 yards, but left Havard with 50 yards to cover in the final 25 seconds. The Cardinals’ final hopes were snuffed out when Riverside’s Joseph Bloom intercepted a Noah Okraska pass attempt at the Charger 18-yard line on the next-to-last play.
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