The BigRich Sports Report
The year 2020 had plenty of bad memories, unlucky situations and no shortage of bad mojo to go around.
That’s not what we’re here for today, though. There were plenty of games and moments throughout the 2020 calendar year that made our eyebrows raise, jaws drop and hearts race.
Here are your top 10 games from 2020:
1. Lady Huskies upend GINW for first time in six years
Looking back on 2020, this midseason volleyball contest can still pull me out of a deep sleep with a sweat.
Aurora held off a late charge from GINW at home Sept. 22, defeating the Vikings in a midweek thriller, 22-25, 26-24, 25-16, 24-26 and 15-6.
The win for Aurora was its first over Grand Island Northwest since 2014 and snaps a 15-match win streak for the Vikings.
That streak included four wins from GINW in 2015 as well as three wins each in ‘16, ‘17 and ‘19.
Aurora led the match 2-1 before the Vikings took the fourth and forced a fifth. Aurora raced out 9-3 in the fifth set before the Lady Huskies finished on a 4-2 run to get the victory.
2. Storm makes first district final in five-set thriller
This High Plains postseason match isn’t far behind the anxiety caused by the No. 1 game on the list.
It was dubbed a match of the year candidate at the time as HPC outlasted Central Valley in the D1-6 subdistrict final Oct. 27, winning in five sets 25-23, 19-25, 25-20, 23-25 and 15-13.
Similar to the first game on the list, HPC was up 2-1 in the match before dropping the fourth, forcing a deciding fifth set.
And despite High Plains taking a 14-8 lead in the fifth, it still didn’t come easy to close the match out. The Cougars fought off five match points, taking it from a 14-8 score to 14-13 just after a High Plains timeout.
HPC went to one of its senior duo in Brianna Wilshusen for the final kill, winning the set and match 15-13 to qualify for the first district final game in school history.
3. Huskies top Norris in playoff brawl
Aurora’s magical 2020 football season had plenty of memorable games, especially through its postseason run. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better one than the quarterfinal tilt against Norris.
On that night, Aurora’s Mack Owens carried the ball 33 times for 168 yards and accounted for all four Husky touchdowns (not to mention all his efforts on defense) as Aurora defeated the Titans 28-21
Norris, playing with several DI football recruits on its roster, had trouble slowing down Aurora’s rushing attack between Owens and Ethan Shaw.
Up seven halfway through the fourth, Aurora worked the clock and drove the ball almost 80 yards before ending the game in the red zone.
4. Hampton outlasts HPC in overtime thriller
This goes back to the CRC basketball tournament in January, which always promises game of the year candidates.
How about this, though?
Through three quarters, Hampton and High Plains’ girls basketball teams combined for 41 points. They totaled 39 in the fourth and overtime.
Hampton senior Lydia Dose buried a three-pointer to begin the overtime period as the Lady Hawks held on to defeat High Plains 42-38 in the opening round of the CRC tournament.
Hampton scored first in the overtime period with the Dose three before the Lady Hawks led 40-36 with 29 seconds to go. High Plains wasn’t able to score quick enough and come up with the right amount of possessions to have a shot to win it.
5. Huskies down Lexington with wild sequence.
The ending of this Aurora-Lexington boys basketball game was bananas.
Following a Nate Boerkircher lay-in with 13 seconds left, the Huskies held on the defensive end to defeat Lexington 35-34.
With the ball and trailing by one with 25 seconds left, from the left wing Andrew Bell lobbed the ball over the top to Boerkircher on the block, who snagged the ball in perfect position to lay it in off the glass for what turned out to be the game-winning bucket with 13 seconds to go.
Aurora would need a stop on the defensive end to come out victorious as Lexington missed a three-pointer and from there, chaos ensued.
The Minutemen came down with the rebound and just as Aurora came away with a defensive steal, officials awarded a timeout to Lexington with 2.5 seconds to play.
Aurora nearly came up with a five-second call on the in-bound play, but instead, Lexington threw the ball out of bounds, giving possession to Aurora. The Huskies drained the final seconds off the clock for its fifth win in six games.
Got all that?
6. McKinney walk-off lifts Huskies to win over Gering
Walk-off victories are always thrilling, no matter the time of year -- even the first weekend of games. Aurora defeated Gering 6-5 on a walk-off hit from Taryn McKinney as the Lady Huskies rallied from quite the deficit.
Aurora took the lead in the first with a blasted home run to center field from McKinney, making it an early 2-0 lead. From there, though, Gering scored the next five runs in succession, including four runs in the fourth to lead, 5-2.
With the game tied at 5, a runner on base and the 90-minute clock having run out, McKinney dropped a line drive single to right, bringing in the game-winning run.
7. Hawk defense soars in victory
Let us not forget the Hampton football team, who won its first game since 2018 and picked up two wins in 2020.
On this night, however, Hampton held St. Edward on two final drives late in the fourth quarter, the second of which came as the final ticks disappeared and the Hawks won 30-27 -- its first victory since Aug. 31, 2018.
Andrew Adams had a field day that night against St. Edward. He took the handoff and in the same moment, lost control of the ball. In fumblerooski-type luck, the ball bounced off the soft Hampton grass and right back into his hands.
No one on the Beaver defense could catch him after that as Adams blasted for a 61-yard touchdown as part of his 15 rushes for 125 yards, three touchdowns and 15 tackles on defense.
Down three late, St. Edward had two drives at the end of the game, both of which featured drive-ending sacks by the Hampton defense to get off the field.
8. Hampton survives five-set thriller in D2-3 district opener
This one had all sorts of emotional and momentum swings.
The Lady Hawks took a 2-0 lead before having to hold off the Bulldogs in five sets to win 25-21, 25-25-21, 23-25, 16-25 and 15-10 to advance in the D2-3 subdistrict.
The two teams swapped the lead a couple times early on in the deciding fifth set before an Abbey Arndt ace put the Lady Hawks back on top, 11-9.
From there, Hampton finished the match on a 4-1 run with two Lillian Dose attacks and a pair of Emma Hansen rejections to win the fifth, 15-10.
Hampton easily won the first two sets before losing its mojo in sets three and four. It’s hard not to root for these teams in those moments, believe me.
9. The game dubbed as “Husky Special”
Do I get to take credit for this, or am I the only one that even remembers this? Probably both.
The Huskies totaled 521 yards of offense, 311 on the ground as Aurora raced past previously unbeaten and Class B’s No. 1 Hastings Tigers 55-34 all while being physical and using a trick play or two.
This game could be seen as Owens’ coming out party after totaling 158 yards on 21 carries with four touchdowns.
Aurora coach Kyle Peterson called that game football at its finest and who am I to argue with a state championship coach?
Aurora and Hastings combined for more than 500 yards of offense in the first half, which ended with the visiting Huskies up 34-21.
But then, the tricks.
Cayden Phillips came back across the field to the right, pulled up to make a pass to a wide open Shaw in the end zone for a dagger touchdown on a play Aurora had in its back pocket for weeks.
10. Late rally falls short for High Plains on homecoming
Not all top 10 games on the list have to be victories and what a game this was for a youthful Storm football team.
On a 4th and 1 from the one-yard line, Lane Urkoski bullied his way in for a touchdown, making it 38-31 with 3:45 to play.
The Storm went for the onside kick, but the ball failed to travel the required 10 yards and EPJ took over at midfield.
EPJ fumbled on second down, but High Plains was unable to pounce on it as the clock ticked under two to play. Wyatt Urkoski used a clutch hit in the backfield on third down to force a fourth and eight and still 90 seconds left.
On its last chance, EPJ goes to the pass and finds a drag route that went 28 yards and a touchdown, all but ending HPC’s hope at a comeback.
Honorable mention: State wrestling tournament
What a weekend for area wrestlers at the 2020 state wrestling tournament. There were five medalist between Aurora and High Plains, along with two runner-up finishers.
Aurora’s Caden Svoboda was the Huskies’ first wrestling finalist since 2012 while Dylan Soule earned a second place effort to end his Storm career with 151 career victories.
Aurora’s Trevor Kluck bounced back after losing his first match of the season to finish third while HPC’s Jarrett Parsons ended his Storm career with a third. Aurora’s Brekyn Papineau added a fifth place effort.
It was so much fun to see all of those athletes compete at such a high level on a pressure-packed stage.
Here’s to another solid list of thrillers to come in the new year. See everyone on the sidelines.
RICHARD RHODEN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.