LINCOLN — Those two toughness lessons Omaha Westside took during the regular season paid off Friday night as the Warriors routed Lincoln Southeast 35-0.
In a Week 3 loss to the Knights and a 41-26 setback to Millard South in the final game of the regular season, Westside coach Brett Froendt said the Warriors weren’t the tougher team when it counted most.
The 9-2 Warriors were determined to change that from the outset of Friday’s rematch in front of 1,755 at Seacrest Field.
“We just learned a lot about toughness from that third game,” Froendt said. “They out-toughed us the last half of the last quarter. We have the kids who have the ability, it’s just learning how to mentally respond to that challenge.
“So as the season went along, we worked on it, we improved. Millard South taught us another lesson a couple of weeks ago about physicality, and we’ve been able to put it all together.”
Westside gets another shot at Millard South in one of Class A’s two semifinal games at Buell Stadium next Friday. The other will be Millard West against Bellevue West, with the winners of those two games playing for the Class A state championship Nov. 26 at Memorial Stadium.
In the regular-season setback to Southeast, the Warriors gave up 15 points in the fourth quarter to fall 22-17. By halftime Friday, any comeback attempt by the Knights (9-2) would have been a much bigger task.
That’s because Westside scored touchdowns on each of its first four possessions.
The first TD came four plays into the game, and how that drive unfolded took an emotional toll on the Knights.
Following three running plays, quarterback Cole Payton flipped the ball to wide receiver Grant Tagge near the sideline.
Tagge had time to get set himself before throwing a 52-yard touchdown strike to Jake Holmstrom. The extra point by Aidan Jackson put Westside ahead 7-0 just 67 seconds into the game.
Southeast then picked up a pair of first downs on the ensuing drive, with the second one coming on a run from punt formation by Isaac Gifford. But the drive ended with three incomplete passes and Westside possessing the ball at their own 41.
Westside deftly mixed running and passing plays on an eight-play, 59-yard drive that ended with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Payton to Trevor Barajas.
That lead grew to 21-0 with a drive that took the final 1:23 of the first quarter and the first 1:03 of the second quarter. Payton ran the final 17 yards around right end for the first of his two rushing TDs.
The Warriors defense forced a three-and-out before putting together a 10-play, 45-yard drive that took just 3:45. Payton and running back Bodie Harrell ran five consecutive belly options before junior fullback Ben Radicia went the final 12 yards on the last three plays for Westside’s fourth touchdown in as many possessions.
“They were physical, they made some plays early in the game, to grab some momentum from us,” Southeast coach Ryan Gottula said. “We were never able to quite get that back. I thought maybe before halftime there we were going to have the opportunity to make some plays and get back into the game, but we were just not able to do that.”
Southeast moved the ball into Westside territory after Radicia’s TD, but a false start penalty, a pass for minus-five yards and an eight-yard sack by the Warriors defense of Southeast quarterback Shadon Shannon short-circuited that chance for points.
Westside scored its final touchdown with 8:22 remaining in the game after the Warriors stopped Southeast on a fourth-and-9. Harrell, who finished with 91 yards on 13 carries, went for 9 yards on the first play before Payton ran the ball the next three plays and capped the drive with a 7-yard TD run around right end.
“Cole is a really good decision-maker in the quarterback run game,” Froendt said. “He’s a talented kid. He’s got good speed; he’s got good toughness. When you have to defend 11 guys, it makes it tough.”
“It’s just a matter of us getting more physical, us being mentally tough, and that showed tonight, for sure.”
Omaha Westside (9-2) 14 13 0 8—35
Lincoln Southeast (9-2) 0 0 0 0— 0
OW: Jake Holmstrom 52 pass from Grant Tagge (Aidan Jackson kick)
OW: Trevor Barajas 21 pass from Cole Payton (Jackson kick)
OW: Payton 17 run (kick failed)
OW: Ben Radicia 1 run (Jackson kick)
OW: Payton 7 run (Bodie Harrell pass from Payton)
Rushing: OW, Cole Payton 17-118, Bodie Harrell 13-91, Ben Radicia 5-17, Avante Dickerson 3-4, Darian Sokpa 2-5, Spencer Schneiderman 3-(minus 5), Team 1-(minus 10). LSW, Nick Halleen 20-98, Isaac Gifford 3-15, Coleby Daffer 2-7, Shadon Shannon 3-(minus 18).
Passing: OW, Payton 8-10-0 84, Tagge 1-1-0 52. LSE, Daffer 7-18-0 60, Shannon 2-8-1 0.
Receiving: OW, Jake Holmstrom 3-66, Dickerson 2-24, Koby Bretz 2-22, Trevor Barajas 1-21, Cal Weidemann 1-3. LSE, Taveon Thompson 3-35, Isaac Applegat 3-25, Halleen 1-4, Gifford 1-1, Derek Branch 2-(minus 5).