Top-ranked Millard West’s first loss of the season had little to do with Friday the 13th and everything to do with Omaha Burke.
The Bulldogs overcame an early two-touchdown deficit and stormed back to win 23-21 in front of an estimated 3,000 at Burke Stadium. The victory boosted fifth-ranked Burke to 2-1 while the Wildcats fell to 2-1.
“I challenged our guys this week,” Bulldogs coach Paul Limongi said. “We needed to put together four quarters of football and we did that.”
Burke showed its resolve early in the game after the Wildcats scored less than two minutes into the game. A 44-yard return of the opening kickoff by Skyler Monaghan set up the opening score, a 7-yard run by Monaghan.
Following an interception by Mike Brummer, Millard West extended its lead later in the period. The Wildcats covered 41 yards in seven plays and went up 14-0 on a 1-yard keeper by quarterback Ross Drwal.
“At that point, I told our guys the score didn’t matter,” Limongi said. “We needed to just keep fighting.”
The Bulldogs began their comeback on the first play of the second quarter. With the wind at his back, quarterback Alex Curbeam lofted a 40-yard touchdown pass to speedy wide receiver Trey Carr.
A Carr interception ended the Wildcats’ next possession at the Burke 9-yard line and the Bulldogs went to the locker room trailing No. 1 Millard West by only a touchdown.
Senior running back Logan Gier, who would play a major role in the second-half comeback, said Limongi was upbeat about his team’s chances at half.
“He told us that they were a talented team but so were we,” Gier said. “The main thing was to keep battling on every play.”
Burke didn’t take the lead on its opening possession of the third quarter, but place-kicker Hayden Guy drilled a 36-yard field goal to draw the Bulldogs within 14-10. After the Bulldogs forced a Millard West punt, Burke took over on its own 31.
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The Bulldogs then avoided disaster when an interception by Sam Brunswick was negated by a pass interference call. After a 3-yard gain by Gier, he broke loose on a 46-yard scoring run that put Burke on top to stay.
“He’s a tough kid,” Limongi said. “That was a great run at a time when we really needed it.”
The Bulldogs missed the extra point and nursed that 16-14 into the fourth quarter. The Burke defense rose up early in the period, stopping the Wildcats on fourth-and-4 at the Bulldogs 39 when a Drwal pass fell incomplete.
Limongi’s squad then ran eight straight running plays, with Gier and Rodney Williams sharing the load. Williams put Burke ahead 23-14 with 5:33 left when he raced 18 yards for the touchdown.
The Wildcats needed just 1:28 to pull within 23-21 when second-string quarterback Zach Johnson hit Monaghan in the end zone with a 9-yard touchdown toss. It was the first play from scrimmage for Johnson, who had taken over after Drwal was shaken up on a running play.
Burke then played keepaway the final four minutes, picking up two crucial first downs to force the Wildcats to use up their three timeouts. One came on a 14-yard catch by Austan Daniels with 2:16 left and the other on a 5-yard run by Williams with 1:39 remaining, which proved to be the dagger.
“Our defense just wasn’t ready to play tonight,” Millard West coach Kirk Peterson said. “They were the more physical team, and that was the difference.”
Gier rushed 18 times for 145 yards for the Bulldogs while Williams carried eight times for 70 yards. Curbeam completed 6 of 10 passes for 78 yards -- 40 coming on the second-quarter scoring toss to Carr.
Drwal completed 13 of 20 passes for 133 yards and rushed 11 times for 69 yards. But the Burke defense rose to the challenge, which led to an emotional postgame pep talk at midfield from Limongi.
“It was a dogfight,” the coach said. “But you guys earned this one.”
The Wildcats return to action Thursday night at Buell Stadium against Millard South. The Bulldogs play next Friday night at Lincoln Northeast.
Millard West .................. 14 0 0 7—21
At Omaha Burke ............ 0 7 9 7—23
MW: Skyler Monaghan 7 run (Danny Sandoz kick)
MW: Ross Drwal 1 run (Sandoz kick)
OB: Trey Carr 40 pass from Alex Curbeam (Hayden Guy kick)
OB: FG Hayden Guy 36
OB: Logan Gier 46 run (kick failed)
OB: Rodney Williams 18 run (Guy kick)
MW: Monaghan 9 pass from Zach Johnson (Sandoz kick)
Rushing: MW, Salvatore Guido 7-31, Skyler Monaghan 3-12, Ross Drwal 11-69, Victor Beanum 12-41, Thomas Russell 2-16. OB, Logan Gier 18-145, Rodney Williams 8-70, Alex Curbeam 12-34, Colton Hough 1-2.
Passing: MW, Drwal 13-20-2 133; Zach Johnson 1-1-0 9. OB, Curbeam 6-10-2 78.
Receiving: MW, Monaghan 5-61, Guido 4-23, Nick Lawson 2-26, Cole Neville 1-15, Bryce Darner 2-17. OB, Trey Carr 2-47, Lim Puoch 1-14, Jacob Coughlin 1-9, Austan Daniels 1-14, Williams 1- (minus 6).
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Video: Highlights from No. 5 Omaha Burke's victory over No. 1 Millard West: