The record-breaking back got a kick out of his team’s back-breaking defensive effort.
Calvin Strong, Omaha North’s standout running back, couldn’t hold back the smile when he was asked about the performance his teammates on defense put up in Friday night’s 21-5 win over defending champion Millard North in the Class A quarterfinals.
“Oh my god,” Strong said with a big grin, “they’re just so hard-working. They just come out after it every week.”
Strong scored all three touchdowns for No. 2 North (10-1) and the Viking defense did the rest. It was a rematch of a 17-14 Mustang victory in last year’s state championship and of the Vikings’ 38-17 win just two weeks ago.
“I’m just happy for our kids,” North coach Larry Martin said.
For the third consecutive time in the series, North allowed no rushing touchdowns by the Mustangs — historically the most prolific rushing attack in the state.
“Great job defensively,” Martin said. “I was real happy with the way our kids executed our game plan. Millard North is a very well-coached football team. They force you to be very disciplined. We just made good plays tonight.”
After forcing a three-and-out on the game’s opening possession, No. 5 Millard North (5-6) marched to the North 2 before settling for a short field goal by Jack Thompson.
The Mustangs got inside the red zone only one more time all night, a drive that ended with a fumble.
“They engulfed us some and we missed on some opportunities,” Millard North coach Fred Petito said.
Strong added to his Class A single-season records for yards and touchdowns with a 31-carry, 153-yard, three-score performance.
His first touchdown, from 5 yards out, capped a 15-play drive in the first quarter. His 1-yard touchdown late in the second quarter was set up by back-to-back 29-yard scampers by the junior.
The cherry on top finished off another long Viking drive and came from the 5 on the second snap of the fourth quarter.
“We just know what we know,” Strong said. “Run, run, run, maybe a pass or two.”
A couple of missed opportunities would haunt Millard North. After the score on their first drive, the Mustangs recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. They wouldn’t earn a first down and turned the ball over four plays later.
A pair of second-half drives also got inside the North 30. One stalled on downs, the other on a back-breaking fumble.
Senior fullback Grant DeVries led the Mustangs with 69 yards on 18 carries. Quarterback Clay Fisher added 63 yards on his 20 attempts.
“They got off blocks and kept things in the pen,” Petito said of North’s defense. “They just beat us.”
North will travel to No. 8 Grand Island — a last-second winner over Omaha Burke Friday night — next Friday for its semifinal. It’s the third time in the last six years that the Vikings have been one of the final four teams in Class A playing. They never had reached the semifinals before 2008.
Millard North (5-6) .......................................... 3 0 0 2— 5
At Omaha North (10-1) .......................................... 0 7 7 7—21
MN: FG Jack Thompson 20
ON: Calvin Strong 5 run (Nick Polito kick)
ON: Strong 1 run (Polito kick)
ON: Strong 5 run (Polito kick)
RUSHING: MN, Grant DeVries 18-69, Clay Fisher 20-63, Logan Forsythe 2-18, Jacob Matthew 2-9, Adrian Kellogg 4-43, Gunnar Orcutt 1-5; ON, Calvin Strong 31-153, Tavion Seals 3-15, Payton Nelson 2-minus 1, team 3-minus 18.
PASSING: MN, Fisher 1-3-0, 24; ON, Nelson 4-11-0 42.
RECEIVING: MN, Adrrell Taylor 1-24; ON, Davion Reed 2-27, Jason Martin 1-10, Marquise Lewis 1-5.