Omaha Northwest's seniors will remember their first win. So will their new coach, Tim Clemenger.
Despite 10 — yes, 10 — turnovers, the Huskies beat host Omaha Benson 34-24 Friday to end a 29-game skid that started in the 2008 playoffs.
“We had eight turnovers the first half and five in the first quarter. It was the craziest thing,” Clemenger said. “A lot were blooper material, bounces off our hands and into their hands.
“We were down five at the half but had eight turnovers. We could have won handily. The second half we made some adjustments. We had a couple more turnovers in the second half and let them hang around, but a win is a win.”
The offensive woes threw the burden on Northwest's defense. “I'm so proud of how the defense stepped up. It was out there all game and made play after play,” Clemenger said. “It was the greatest defensive performance I'd ever seen. How does our offense give up 10 turnovers and we still win by 10?”
Among the top Northwest defenders were junior linebackers Thomas Martig and Gacobie Harris and 375-pound sophomore Macy Foard on the line.
“Martig is all over the field,” Clemenger said. “He had 19 tackles, 13 were solo, against Lincoln High (a 24-19 loss) and 12 against Benson. He's a big part of what we do on defense. Gacobie is one of our hardest hitters. He had been playing safety, but he was making so many tackles we put him next to Tom at linebacker for the Benson game. Macy is plugging up the inside and we're expecting more out of him.”
Clemenger said senior quarterback K-Anthony Fletcher, who threw for three touchdowns for the second straight game and is averaging 225 yards a game, likes the new wide-open attack as do tall twin senior wide receivers Stacy and Eron Keely.
“When I took the job, at our first players meeting I said what kind of offense we were planning and they came up and literally gave me giant hugs,” he said. “I may never have another 6-7 kid who's fast and athletic, but we have two of them. It's crazy getting them this year to start out.”
Northwest's players, once they completed the postgame handshakes, sprinted to their student section to start celebrating.
“We coaches didn't use the word ‘streak' around them, but they were using it,” Clemenger said. “They wanted to be the team that broke that. The seniors wanted to be the group that got one because the three previous senior classes hadn't. Nobody can take that away from them.”
Next is a home game Friday against Lincoln Pius X. Now that the elephant — the losing streak — is out of the room, Clemenger said, he hopes the Huskies can play relaxed and “do our thing.”
“I anticipated the first win being on Cloud Nine and going to sleep with a smile,” he said. “I'm still shaking my head.”
Northwest avoided tying the longest losing streak in Class A, a 30-gamer by Benson that ended in 2005.
Morrill's skid stops at 27 games
Northwest wasn't the only team last week to end a long losing streak. Morrill ended a 27-gamer with a 22-9 victory against Banner County in the Lions' first game in eight-man. Morrill's skid included three forfeits at the end of last season after it ran short of players.
The longest active losing streaks are 40 by Walthill, which left eight-man for six-man this year, and 23 by Ainsworth in Class C-1. On the flip side, Arthur County in Six Man is working on a 36-game winning streak, with Norfolk Catholic at 28. David City Aquinas and Elgin/Pope John are at 14 apiece.
GINW's Rouzee sets Class B mark
Grand Island Northwest quarterback Zach Rouzee threw for 397 yards against Hastings to break the Class B single-game record of 377 by Ryan Woodard of Omaha Roncalli against Beatrice in 1994. It took him only 20 completions and 37 attempts.
The night before, Papillion-La Vista junior Alec Ditoro tied the Class A record of six touchdown passes in a game by halftime of the Monarchs' 48-21 win against Lincoln East.
More wins found for Palrang's record
Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame coach Skip Palrang has 36 more high school wins than he was previously credited, changing his career record to 237-77-13. The additional wins came at Omaha Creighton Prep from 1934 to 1939 (a 36-11-1 overall record).
Palrang left Prep's sideline to coach Creighton University's football team before the school dropped the sport after the 1942 season, then spent 29 seasons at Boys Town while collecting his final 201 wins.
Football returns to Spencer's field
Hamilton Field in Spencer was in use for the first time since 2007 for Boyd County's first football game, a 46-6 loss to Niobrara-Verdigre. Boyd County is the new combination of West Boyd (Spencer-Naper and Butte) and Lynch.
The Norfolk Daily News reported the field was named in 1970 for Sgt. Gerald “Jerry” Hamilton, who died in combat that summer in South Vietnam. Since then, Spencer's American Legion post raised the flag that draped Hamilton's casket for every game there until West Boyd was formed in 2007 and all games played at Butte. The post, however, continued with an annual flag-raising ceremony on the night a game would have been played in Spencer.
Future games are possible for Spencer, West Boyd Superintendent Russell Lechtenberg said, based on attendance.