Luke Sims hadn’t touched the ball a lot, certainly not compared to Zander Gray.
So there was an element of surprise when Omaha Creighton Prep threw to its 6-1, 240-pound fullback to ignite the game-winning drive Thursday night against Gray and defending Class A state champion Omaha North.
Sims turned the swing pass into a 22-yard gain and, after Prep got its second first down of the drive from a North penalty, capped the 65-yard possession with a 4-yard touchdown with 1:47 left.
The Junior Jays ended a four-game losing streak against North with their 12-7 win. An estimated 3,500 at Kinnick Stadium watched the televised season opener for both teams.
Sims was a 1,000-yard rusher last season, but had gotten only six carries in the first three quarters as Prep was going to senior running back Jackson Bartling.
“We have good weapons on offense and we have guys we can spread it out, but at the end of the day when you need yards, you give the ball to Sims and let him do his thing,” Prep coach Tim Johnk said. “Being able to mix it up and do the things we did at the end of the (first) half and there at the end of the game was outstanding.”
Sims said Prep usually includes him in a couple of pass calls a game, but it never seems to come his way. Until Thursday, when the pass from junior Reid Burke moved Prep to the North 31.
“He has wide receiver hands,” Johnk said. “It’s times like that when we want to throw it to him, when nobody is expecting it.”
North gave Prep 15 yards on a personal foul, then gave up a 16-yard burst to Sims to the 5. He scored two plays later.
Everybody was expecting a big night from Gray, who rushed for more than 3,000 yards while splitting carries the previous two seasons with Milton Sargbah.
On 35 carries, the 6-1, 230-pound Gray ran for 229 yards, including a 47-yard blast in the third quarter for the Vikings’ only score. But he also lost a fumble in the first half inside the Prep 10 — junior defensive end Jackson Jenkins jarred the ball with his helmet and senior linebacker John Bullock got the recovery.
North outgained Prep 360 yards to 250, but turned the ball over on downs after getting to the Prep 37 in the first quarter, the 11 before Gray’s fumble and the 21 in the second and the 27 in the third.
After Prep went ahead, the Vikings made it to the Prep 45 in desperation mode.
“Offensively, I know our guys are disappointed, and I don’t want not to give Prep credit, but we have to make some plays,” North coach Larry Martin said. “We dropped a touchdown pass, fumbled a ball inside the 10. We just can’t do that against good teams, and we found that out tonight.”
Prep led 3-0 at halftime on a 30-yard Noah Strako field goal — the first two quarters were played in a mist — then trailed 7-3 after three quarters. Prep cut it to one on Strako’s 25-yard field goal two plays into the final period.
“We’re starting to show some toughness,” Johnk said. “Coming in playing a team like this, our defense was outstanding. We did bend, we didn’t break. We got some turnovers, got some stops when we needed them.
“It was just a tough defensive battle and it was extremely physical. That’s what you think when you play North.”
Omaha Creighton Prep (1-0).........0 3 0 9—12
Omaha North (0-1)......................0 0 7 0—7
CP: FG Noah Strako 30
ON: Zander Gray 47 run (Jared Venner kick)
CP: FG Strako 25
CP: Luke Sims 4 run (run failed)
A: 3,500 (est.)
RUSHING: CP, Jackson Bartling 20-98, Sims 7-39, Reid Burke 4-4, George Hubner 2-23. ON, Gray 35-229, LaVaughn Luellen 3-26, Tre’on Fairgood-Jones 8-43, Houston Fogelstrom 1-minus 7, Jalen Foster 2-0.
PASSING: CP, Burke 7-20-0 78. ON, Fogelstrom 4-10-0 30.
RECEIVING: CP, Mason Armstead 4-38, Sims 1-22, Alex Bullock 1-7, Thomas Corpuz 1-11. ON, Foster 1-15, Bryant Wesson 2-15, Jaiden Long 1-0.
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