When Omaha Gross won the Class B state title last season, the Cougars shut out three opponents and held seven others to a touchdown or less.
That defense was on display again Friday night at Bryan Stadium.
Gross held previously unbeaten and third-ranked Elkhorn South to five first downs and 149 total yards as the Cougars earned a 15-0 victory.
“It just brings back great memories from last year. It’s that Gross defense,” senior linebacker Tyler Koraleski said. “It felt so good shutting those guys out, especially when they’ve been scoring so much.”
Elkhorn South (5-1) entered Friday averaging 38 points and 407 yards per game. But the eighth-ranked Cougars (4-2) forced the Storm to go three-and-out on five of its first seven drives and then created three turnovers in the fourth quarter.
“They had an outstanding game plan and executed it real well,” Storm coach Guy Rosenberg said. “They were physical on defense, did a great job of getting off blocks and shutting down our running game. We couldn’t get our tempo established.”
Gross, which lost to Elkhorn in overtime and at Crete earlier this season, had allowed just 12.2 points per game before Friday. But Gross coach Tim Johnk said Friday’s defensive effort was the team’s best this season.
“We read our keys really, really well,” Koraleski said. “We shut down that read option. We were on the quarterback so well.”
Koraleski also provided some offense.
Gross took a 3-0 lead when Jacob Herren converted a 36-yard field goal early in the second quarter. Koraleski, who plays fullback, then gave the Cougars breathing room as he rushed through the line and then outran the Storm defense down the left sideline for a 54-yard touchdown with 3:15 left before halftime.
“We have good I-backs. Sometimes they forget about our fullback,” Johnk said of Koraleski, who finished with a game-high 76 yards on six carries.
One of those I-backs, Anthony Vigneri, sealed Friday’s win as he scored on a 34-yard run with 1:35 left in the game.
But before that, Jacob Johnson and Jeffrey Pospichal intercepted passes in the final three minutes to cap Gross’ night on defense. Johnson also recovered a fumble early in the fourth quarter near midfield to stop one of Elkhorn South’s best drives of the night.
“We played well,” said Johnk, whose team committed no turnovers. “We hurt ourselves with some penalties on offense (10 for 102 yards), but defensively it was awesome.”
Elkhorn South will have another stiff test next week when it hosts unbeaten Gretna.
“I told them we have to keep the faith in our teammates, keep faith in our schemes,” Rosenberg said. “We had our best practice of the year this week. We’re big believers in the process. Tonight we just weren’t able to make the plays when we needed to.”
Elkhorn South (5-1) ............................ 0 0 0 0— 0
At Omaha Gross (4-2) ............................ 0 9 0 6—15
OG: Jacob Herren 36 FG
OG: Tyler Koraleski 54 run (kick failed)
OG: Anthony Vigneri 34 run (kick failed)
RUSHING: ES: Zach Reeg 12-58, Zach Zelasko 7-30, Steve Worthing 4-8, Chad Carlos 3-8, Nick McEwin 2-0; OG: Koraleski 6-76, Vigneri 14-75, Matt Herting 18-62, Roman Andrews 6-27, Matthew Sullivan 4-18, Jacob Johnson 1-5.
PASSING: ES: Reeg 3-6-0 22, Worthing 2-8-2 23; OG: Herting 3-5-0 40.
RECEIVING: ES: Zelasko 1-15, McEwin 1-12, Grant Nelson 1-8, Carlos 1-8, Worthing 1-2; OG: Vigneri 1-24, Bryan Vomacka 1-7, Noah Fanslau 1-9.