Drew Fitzmorris did his part on offense, scoring on a pair of short touchdown runs in Omaha Westside's 24-7 season-opening win over Omaha Central Friday at Seemann Stadium.
But Fitzmorris preferred to talk about what he and the rest of the Warriors did on the other side of the ball.
“Defensively, I couldn't be more proud,” Fitzmorris said. “For the most part, we shut them down. We had quite a few three-and-outs. We had a lot of guys step up, make big plays.”
The Warriors held Central without a first down on nine of the Eagles' 11 possessions. Central finished with 139 yards and five first downs. Four came on its touchdown drive late in the first half.
“Defense played extremely well. We played physical,” said Westside coach Brett Froendt, whose team is ranked ninth in Class A. “It was tough conditions tonight, but they hung in there and played technically sound football. We were proud of their performance from quarter one all the way to the end.”
Hot, humid conditions made for a difficult night — the heat index was still in the upper 80s when the game ended.
But Froendt said his players did a good job of putting that out of their minds, and the Warriors set the tone from the start. They forced Central to go three-and-out on the first possession and then drove 45 yards in four plays to take a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the game.
Lane Yates scored from 5 yards out to cap the drive. Yates, who rushed for more than 1,500 yards as a junior, finished with 83 yards on 24 carries.
Yates also had a spectacular 60-yard punt return for a touchdown that was taken away because of a penalty. Westside also had a 40-yard touchdown pass negated by a penalty.
“Both of them were silly mistakes that can be taken care of, so I'm not worried about that,” Froendt said. “It was just good to see the big-play capability, because Central's a good team.”
The Warriors stretched the lead to 14-0 midway through the second quarter on Fitzmorris' 10-yard run.
At that point, Central didn't have a first down on its five possessions. But the Eagles responded with an 11-play, 80-yard drive that pulled them within 14-7 at halftime. Tre Sanders finished that drive with a 4-yard run.
But the Warriors regained momentum immediately in the second half.
Fitzmorris returned the second half's opening kickoff 44 yards to the Central 39. Eight plays later, Fitzmorris scored from 7 yards out.
“That wedge we got on the kickoff couldn't have been more open,” Fitzmorris said. “That was a big momentum swing and I think it took the wind out of them a little.”
Westside, which went 7-3 last season, will play Creighton Prep at home next Friday. Central will face Burke.
“We have a lot of room to grow,” Fitzmorris said. “We have to clean some things up. Too many penalties. But first game, first win, I'll take it.”
Omaha Westside (1-0) ............................. 7 7 7 3—24
At Omaha Central (0-1) ............................ 0 7 0 0— 7
OW: Lane Yates 5 run (Christian Hagan kick)
OW: Drew Fitzmorris 10 run (Hagan kick)
OC: Tre Sanders 4 run (Michael Galeski kick)
OW: Fitzmorris 7 run (Hagan kick)
OW: Hagan 34 field goal
RUSHING: OW: Lane Yates 24-83, Drew Fitzmorris 11-44, Brayton Novak 1-20, Mitch Schenkelberg 1-6, Jalen Cox-Martin 1-4, Matthew Connelly 1-3, Logan Duryee 3-2, Christian Hagan 2-(minus 16); OC: Cameron Dorsey 16-33, Aaron Wright 9-23, Tre Sanders 7-16, Malik Sams 1-5.
PASSING: OW: Hagan 9-17-1 85; OC: Dorsey 7-14-0 62.
RECEIVING: OW: Jamaal Conway-Smith 2-37, Andrew Combs 2-25, Luke Biggs 1-8, Jack Matt 1-8, Malek Pittman 1-7, Yates 1-6, Connelly 1-(minus 6); OC: Malik Harris 2-25, Sams 1-16, Daishon Neal 1-8, Wright 1-7, LaTrell Jameson 1-6, Tyvon Merritt 1-0.