LINCOLN — With a schedule as daunting as Millard North faced this season, the Mustangs really had no choice but to keep things light and keep plugging away.
Luckily for coach Fred Petito, his group fit that bill to perfection.
“You know exactly what you’re getting with this bunch,” Petito said. “They’re kind of somewhat a goofy bunch of guys. But you know how to read them. They’re highly competitive, they play to the last down and when you slap them in the face they slap you back.”
All of Millard North’s 13 wins came against playoff qualifiers. A combined five came against the other three semifinal teams.
That fact wasn’t lost on Petito, who looked over at his team’s sideline as it celebrated with fans.
“Our schedule hardened us, but our schedule was hard on us,” he said. “You never got to relax. Now, I think our guys can relax a little.”
Teams just don’t do to Millard North what Omaha North did Monday night.
Millard North’s high-octane option offense was held nearly 200 yards under its season average. A stout front and a group of linebackers that flew to the ball created a pair of uncharacteristic turnovers by the Mustangs’ Isaac Aakre.
Before the game-winning drive, Millard North had just 222 yards of total offense.
“To make them throw the football to score there at the end and to make them come out of their four-man front and play a five-man front is a tribute to our work ethic with our kids,” Omaha North coach Larry Martin said.
A Mustang offense that typically churns out long drives had gone three plays or less on five of its first eight drives. The other three resulted in a missed field goal, a successful field goal and a touchdown and were all at least 10 plays.
Aakre bounces back
It wasn’t a typical Aakre night.
The guy who makes a habit of 200-yard games had been limited to just 110. His third-quarter fumble set up North’s first touchdown one play later.
When he put it on the turf again in the fourth quarter, it gave the Vikings new life, an opportunity they again cashed in for a score.
“Let’s go over there and chew him out right now,” Petito joked to reporters who brought up the miscues.
It was Aakre’s clutch passing down the stretch that lifted Millard North. He threw for two scores for the second consecutive game, raising his season total to six.
Aakre hit Clay Fisher on a 46-yard pass with one minute to play to put Millard North up for good. He was 3 of 4 on the drive for 68 of his 106 passing yards.