For a guy whose team seemed to have all the answers Friday night, Omaha Skutt coach Matt Turman had a hard time putting the program’s latest big win into words.
“I don’t know how,” Turman said with a smile after his fifth-ranked SkyHawks upended No. 1 Gretna 10-9 in a Class B semifinal.
The victory not only avenged a regular-season loss to the previously unbeaten Dragons, but it also put Skutt in its fourth state championship game in five seasons. The SkyHawks will face third-ranked York, a 14-0 winner over No. 2 Elkhorn South in the other semifinal.
“I’m happy for these kids,” Turman said. “Four out of five is pretty remarkable for the program.”
He could have used the same adjective to describe his defense Friday.
A first-quarter interception return for a touchdown by senior linebacker Jake Archer set the tone. He picked off Quinn Mason and returned it 35 yards untouched for a score on Gretna’s third possession.
“I was just watching the quarterback’s eyes,” Archer said. “I could just tell there was someone coming behind me, so I knew I was in the right spot.”
And after he caught it?
“I just ran,” Archer said.
The Dragons didn’t take long to answer. Noah Burghardt took a short pass to the left and fought for space before sprinting 57 yards for a score. But the first missed extra point of the season by senior kicker Kortlan Franke would loom large.
The teams traded field goals in the second quarter before both defenses flexed their muscle.
Skutt’s ceded 80 total yards after halftime. Gretna limited the SkyHawks to 179 yards for the game and came up with a couple of big stops down the stretch to give its offense a chance.
The best of those opportunities came early in the fourth, when the Dragons drove into the red zone and looked poised to come away with points.
But senior running back Tanner Tierney fumbled inside the Skutt 10 and the SkyHawks recovered at the 5.
“The biggest thing we wanted to do was take away the run,” Turman said. “We kept bending, not breaking.”
Gretna had two offensive possessions in the game’s final six minutes. The Dragons went three-and-out on the first before driving to the Skutt 37 on the second. But a false start and 4-yard loss by Tierney put them behind the sticks. Then the swarming SkyHawk defense came up with a sack on fourth down to seal it.
“We throw a pick-six, miss a PAT and fumble on the 5 going in,” Gretna coach Dave Shrader said. “What else can you say? That’s a tough way to lose it.”
Asked what the difference was between Friday night and a 24-7 Gretna win in late September, Turman said: “We played defense.”
He now has the SkyHawks one win from their third title in five seasons.
“We lost a couple of games early, but our kids have just been preparing and practicing hard all year and we keep getting better,” Turman said. “We went through three really good teams in Aurora, McCook and Gretna now. These kids did a great job and they earned every second of it.
“They talked a lot about the guys that came before them and them kind of blazing the path. Now they get to make their own story.”
Omaha Skutt (10-2).......7 3 0 0—10
At Gretna (11-1)............6 3 0 0— 9
OS: Jake Archer 35 interception return (Joey White kick)
G: Noah Burghardt 57 pass from Quinn Mason (kick failed)
G: FG Kortlan Franke 25
OS: FG White 26
Rushing: OS, Ben Sievers 15-66 Ben Zach 4-7, Billy Higgins 8-19, Jake Archer 8-48. G, Tanner Tierney 30-114, Hunter Chilton 6-11, Quinn Mason 7-(minus 12).
Passing: OS, Sievers 3-10-0 39. G, Mason 10-17-2 142.
Receiving: Tyson Gordon 1-2, Zach 1-5, JD Daro 1-32. G, Noah Burghardt 6-108, Cole Ruff 4-34.