• Video Below: See Class B highlights
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LINCOLN — A roar went up from the Omaha Gross faithful Tuesday night when Tyler Koraleski and Zach Knicky made a fourth-down stop with 1:15 left in the Class B championship game.
It was time to start celebrating the school's first state football title.
“We did it for the alumni and everyone who ever wore this 'G,' ” said junior Anthony Vigneri, who scored the Cougars' touchdowns in a 14-7 victory over Norris.
“We did it for the coaches because they all deserve it.”
The No. 3 Cougars (12-1), who won their final 11 games of the season, gave up 20 points in their final three games — six to Omaha Skutt, seven to defending champion Elkhorn and seven to the Titans.
“The defense played well all year except for one game — Week 2 against Elkhorn,” Gross coach Tim Johnk said. “They play so hard, they understand our scheme and coach (Mike) Filipowicz does an unbelievable job of getting them in the right place at the right time and making some really critical calls for alignment and blitzes.”
The Cougars held Norris to 99 yards in the second half and 238 for the game and kept Norris running back James Kruger from scoring.
Kruger, who had 2,190 yards through 12 games, finished with 103 yards on 24 carries. Nebraska baseball recruit Jakson Reetz, the Titans' junior quarterback, played through a first-half hand injury to throw for 81 yards and run for 40.
“(Kruger) and Reetz, we needed to make sure we took care of those two guys because if you don't they're going to beat you,” Johnk said. “If you give them 150 yards to 200 yards, they're going to beat you. That's what 2,000-yard rushers do.”
Johnk should know. The former Husker fullback topped the 2,000 plateau on Schuyler's 1986 state championship team.
Trailing 7-6 at halftime, Gross regained the lead against the No. 5 Titans (10-3) with a seven-minute drive that was its only possession of the third quarter.
Of the 16 plays it took to go 83 yards, Vigneri carried on nine and senior quarterback Zach Johnk was good on three of his four passes — one went to Vigneri for 16 yards.
“That's big because that's what (Norris) wanted to do to us,” coach Johnk said.
Vigneri spoiled the Titans' goal-line stand by scoring from the 2 on third down.
“We thought we had them stopped on the goal line,” Norris coach Jim Jacobsen said, “but they did a very nice job getting their offense in.”
Norris, like Gross, had only three possessions after halftime. Those ended with a punt from the Gross 42, an incomplete pass on fourth-and-4 from the Cougar 26 and the final stop by the Cougars in front of a Memorial Stadium crowd of 6,539.
“We had a few turnovers, a couple alignment problems on defense, a couple of tackles missed,” Jacobsen said.
The Titans in the first half threw two interceptions — both to Knicky — and fumbled four times. They lost only one bobble, but it was costly. After Noah Arenson recovered it at the Norris 14, Vigneri scored from the 3 three plays later for a 6-0 lead with 9:52 left in the half.
With 21 seconds left in the half, Reetz threw to Byron Hood in the end zone for a 37-yard touchdown. Ryan Bellinghausen's extra point made it 7-6 at halftime.
Vigneri, a 185-point junior, had 104 yards on 25 carries and made 12 total tackles. Nate Zimmerer, a younger brother of Husker fullback C.J. Zimmerer, led the Cougars with 10 solo tackles and five assists.
“We're brothers. We do it for each other,” Vigneri said. “We took it as a challenge to prove the state wrong. They had us losing almost every game in the playoffs. It was just more motivation for us.”
Norris (10-3) ................. 0 7 0 0—7
Omaha Gross (12-1) ................. 0 6 8 0—14
G: Anthony Vigneri 3 run (kick failed)
N: Byron Hood 37 pass from Jakson Reetz (Ryan Bellinghausen kick)
G: Anthony Vigneri 2 run (Vigneri run)
RUSHING: N, James Kruger 24-103, Nick Davis 7-40, Jakson Reetz 11-14. G, Vigneri 25-104, Zach Johnk 6-30, Matt Sullivan 2-16, team 3-minus 4, Nate Zimmerer 2-minus 5.
PASSING: N, Reetz 7-15-1 81, Jordan Damkroger 0-1-1 0. G, Johnk 8-13-0 62.
RECEIVING: N, Hood 2-45, A.J. Flodman 2-11, Josh Gutzmer 1-13, Andrew Helmink 1-7, Kruger 1-5. G, Zimmerer 3-11, Vigneri 2-22, Zach Knicky 2-18, Joe Coenen 1-11.
DEFENSE (unassisted-assisted-total): N, C.J. Adamson 2-6-8, Flodman 2-4-6, Terrill Murray 4-1-5, Aaron Docter 3-2-5, Tony Mainelli 4-0-4, Nolan Graham 2-2-4, Preston Price 3-0-3, Jordan Vietz 3-0-3, Gutzmer 2-1-3, Reetz 2-1-3, Brady Johnson 1-1-2, Ryan Hurt 1-0-1, Helmink 1-0-1, Trey Hair 1-0-1, Bellinghausen 1-0-1, Kruger 1-0-1. G, Zimmerer 10-5-15, Vigneri 8-4-12, Jacob Johnson 2-5-7, Nate Crnkovich 3-2-5, Chad Bertagni 3-1-4, Tyler Koraleski 2-2-4, Derek Dostal 2-1-3, Knicky 1-2-3, Max Connor 2-0-2, Sullivan 1-1-2, Coenen 1-1-2, Noah Arneson 1-1-2, Bryan Vomacka 0-1-1.
FUMBLE RECOVERIES: G, Arneson.
INTERCEPTIONS: G, Knicky 2-0 yards.
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