LINCOLN — The red-zone fumble was devastating at the time, but neither Nick Halleen nor Lincoln Southeast let it decide Friday’s game against No. 3 Omaha Westside.
Southeast forced the Warriors into taking an intentional safety, and then Halleen popped loose for a 38-yard touchdown on the ensuing possession to lift the Knights to a 22-17 victory at Seacrest Field.
“I knew I had to get back out there and redeem myself,” Halleen said. “The backside opened. It was wide open. My eyes got huge right when I saw that. I have the best O-line in the state.”
Westside, which led 17-7 after three quarters, wasn’t done after Halleen’s touchdown with 1:04 left. Junior quarterback Cole Payton converted a fourth-and-15 with a 27-yard scramble, completed two of his next three passes and picked up another 24 yards to the Knights’ 20 with eight seconds left.
Westside went for the end zone, but McGinness Schneider stepped in front of Cal Weidemann to end the game on an interception.
Watching the last drive was stressful, Halleen said, “but I trust my defense.”
No. 7 Southeast is a blocked field goal — after a rekick was needed — from being 3-0. The Knights lost to now-No. 6 Omaha Burke 16-14 on opening night.
“This is a huge win against a ranked opponent,” said Halleen, who rushed for 205 yards on 29 carries. “We needed to show (up) against a top 10 team and we did tonight.”
Southeast hadn’t scored since its opening possession until starting quarterback Shadon Shannon scooted 12 yards with 9:33 to play. After that 80-yard drive, the Knights forced a Westside punt after two first downs, and a 42-yard pass from second quarterback Coleby Daffer to Isaac Appleget had them at the Westside 7.
Halleen fumbled on the next play as sophomore Jack Wimmer recovered for Westside.
But the Warriors couldn’t escape the shadow of the goal line and Cole Payton — who ran and passed for Westside’s touchdowns — ran around in the end zone on fourth down for a few seconds before taking the intentional safety with 2:11 left.
Southeast coach Ryan Gottula, a former Westside assistant, said he’s seen the Knights’ senior leaders step up after the Burke loss.
“Sometimes when you lose a game like that, honestly you can lose some players and they can get down on themselves,” he said. “We haven’t seen that. We’ve had two great weeks of practice. They played four quarters tonight and they knew they were going to have to.
“Westside has a great football team, but I’m very proud of the effort out of our kids.”
Omaha Westside (2-1)...........0 7 10 0—17
Lincoln Southeast (2-1)..........7 0 0 15—22
LSE: Nick Halleen 4 run (Jackson Doty kick)
OW: Cole Payton 1 run (Jack Bush kick)
OW: Jake Holmstrom 37 pass from Payton (Bush kick)
OW: FG Bush 43
LSE: Shadon Shannon 12 run (Doty kick)
LSE: Halleen 38 run (run failed)