Over the next couple of seasons, this Omaha Westside-Millard South series could get really good. But subsequent games will have to top Thursday night.
So many sophomores figured in what rates as the best defensive game of the regular season, Millard South’s 14-13 televised win that was settled by a pair of sparkling defensive plays on either end of the Buell Stadium field in the fourth quarter.
There were two sophomores involved in the go-ahead play for the No. 4 Patriots, Tate Hinrichs tackling Westside quarterback Cole Payton in the south end zone for a safety. Then with 1:15 left and Westside at the Millard South 5 attacking the north end zone, there was another play with two sophomores — Brynden Anderson recovering a fumble by Westside Power-Five prospect Avante Dickerson to preserve the win.
Want more 10th graders? Millard South quarterback TJ Urban ran for 188 yards on 27 carries as he led the Patriots to three scores — a 60-yard breakaway by junior Isaiah Harris and two 30-yard field goals by Cole Lammel. He, too, is a sophomore.
On the Warriors’ side, Payton threw for 153 yards and two touchdowns. Dickerson ran for 86 yards.
Millard South (8-1) improved its record to 4-1 in games decided by eight points or fewer. Westside (8-1) had won its first eight games but hadn’t been in a four-quarter game. When it played Omaha Creighton Prep and the Junior Jays were in the Top 10, Westside had the 35-point clock going in a 37-2 win.
“We fight, we’ve done that all along, but maybe this is the kick in the rear we need,’’ Westside coach Brett Froendt said. “We now know what the next level is and if we play mistake-free ball, I think the sky’s the limit for this team.”
Westside hadn’t scored since the game’s opening drive when it went 80 yards, Payton converting three third-down plays from behind the sticks, to take a 13-12 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter. The lefty threw to senior Dylan Packett for a 2-yard score. Westside went for two, but after a procedure penalty Payton threw incomplete.
Later, Joe Folda pinned Westside with a punt that was downed at the 1. The Warriors ran up the middle twice before Payton rolled left and into the end zone against a Millard South blitz. Hinrichs said he dove at the quarterback’s feet, believing he could be getting away, but senior teammate Gage Thomas was in front of Payton as security.
“Last week our offense had to step up, this week it was our defense,’’ Millard South coach Andy Means said. “Until we can get to that point where the offense does well and the defense does well, we’re not going to be a very good playoff team. We made plays when we had to, turned the ball over a little too much, but one thing about this team is it plays for 48 minutes.”
The game was in its 47th minute when the Patriots stymied Westside the last time. Dickerson broke for 33 yards to the Millard South 10, then got 5 more. But on second-and-goal, Millard South senior lineman Jayden Merriman swung Dickerson around and the sophomore fumbled to Anderson.
“Giving up the safety and losing the ball and missing on a blitz, letting them keep possession, was pretty costly,’’ Froendt said. “A lot of credit to them, but we can’t beat ourselves down the stretch like that.”
Harris, a junior, added 137 yards as Millard South gained 367 yards against a Westside defense allowing 200 less than that per game.
Both teams appear set to be first-round hosts and could be set up for a semifinal meeting.
The series is only beginning.
Omaha Westside (8-1)...........7 0 0 6—13
At Millard South (8-1)............3 6 3 2—14
OW: Grant Tagge 11 pass from Cole Payton (Jack Bush kick)
MS: FG Cole Lammel 30
MS: Isaiah Harris 60 run (PAT failed)
MS: FG Lammel 30
OW: Dylan Packett 2 pass from Payton (pass failed)
MS: Safety, Tate Hinrichs tackles Payton in end zone.
Rushing: OW, Dickerson 15-86, Payton 7-(minus 2), Raoul Koalani 1-5, Will Hurtado 2-3. MS, TJ Urban 27-188, Harris 29-137, Chase Perchal 2-(minus 6), team 2-(minus 3).
Passing: OW, Payton 15-22-0 153, Brett Curran 0-1-1 0. MS, Urban 4-7-0 51.
Receiving: OW, Joe Stegman 6-47, Trevor Barajas 2-28, Packett 4-42, Tagge 3-36. MS, Tyson Gerdes 3-45, Perchal 1-6.
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