Down 14 points in the fourth quarter?
Old hat for Omaha North.
The Vikings are heading to their fifth Class A state football final in six years after rallying for a 29-28 victory Friday night over Omaha Burke at Kinnick Stadium. It was only the second semifinal to match Omaha Public Schools teams.
Burke’s defense, especially Power Five prospect Nick Henrich, tried to resist. The Bulldogs had eight tackles for losses — five by the junior linebacker — out of 22 carries in the second half.
“But you can’t win them all, though,” North’s Zander Gray said.
The 235-pound junior bulled for the 1-yard touchdown that tied the game at 28 with 1:43 left. Milton Sargbah, who had scored earlier in the quarter, made the extra-point kick for the lead.
Burke started its last series from the 25. On fourth-and-4, Tyler Chadwick threw behind another future Power Five guy, tight end Chris Hickman, on the only pass that went his way. North ran out the clock from victory formation.
The Vikings will meet another comeback winner, Kearney, in the Nov. 21 state final at Memorial Stadium. Kearney needed a field goal on the last play of the game to defeat Omaha Creighton Prep 25-23.
When No. 5 North (11-1) defeated Grand Island during the regular season, the Vikings trailed 20-6 entering the fourth quarter but won 26-20. Such magic, however, didn’t result when it lost 28-14 at Lincoln Pius X to end the regular season and drop from No. 1.
No. 6 Burke (9-3) was a formidable opponent. The Bulldogs got 223 yards and a touchdown from James Burks while Chadwick threw touchdown passes of 39 yards to Xavier Watts in the first quarter and 43 to Darnel Davis in the third. The junior quarterback also scored on a 62-yard keeper.
Davis’ catch came two plays after Burks started the second half with a 49-yard run. Burks’ 5-yard score came on the third play of the final period.
Burke had forced three-and-outs on both North possessions in the third quarter. But the Vikings started to open running room for Gray and Sargbah, who ran for 176 and 160 yards, respectively, by sending a man in motion into the line as a lead blocker.
“They do a good job with Henrich,” North coach Larry Martin said. “He had a heckuva game tonight on the defensive side of the ball, and we were just trying to keep him honest.
“We ran at him a little bit. They were short maybe a man, we felt, on that side and we ran motion over there.”
Martin said he saw no panic in the Vikings even when they fell behind.
“We have a good group of offensive linemen and electric backs,” he said. “We had to stay patient, and that’s hard when you’re used to scoring a lot.”
Neither team lost a turnover, but Burke had some special-teams mistakes: a low snap on the first extra-point try of the night, followed by three punts into the cold wind in the second quarter for 17 yards, a loss of 5 yards (the ball spun high in the air) and 11 yards.
Only the negative-yardage kick cost the Bulldogs points. After having been stopped on downs at the Burke 4 the preceding possession, North regained possession at the 7 and Gray scored from the 8 on third down for a 14-13 lead that barely lasted into the second half.
It was a better, but more bitter, showing for the Bulldogs than their 49-28 loss to North at Kinnick on Oct. 6 when they were still holding the No. 1 ranking from the preseason. They should make another playoff run next year — Chadwick, Burks, Henrich and Hickman are juniors and Watts a sophomore — but their 21 seniors don’t get another chance.
Redemption is now on the minds of the Vikings, who were struck down 43-6 by Bellevue West in last year’s final.
“It feels good,” Gray said. “I’m not going to fall down this time and I’m not going to let my teammates fall down, either.”
Omaha Burke (9-3).............13 0 7 8—28
Omaha North (11-1).............7 7 0 15—29
OB: Xavier Watts 39 pass from Tyler Chadwick (PAT failed)
ON: Milton Sargbah 35 run (Sargbah kick)
OB: Chadwick 62 run (Jason Gutierrez kick)
ON: Zander Gray 8 run (Sargbah kick)
OB: Darnel Davis 30 pass from Chadwick (Gutierrez kick)
OB: James Burks 5 run (Chadwick run)
ON: Sargbah 9 run (Gray run)
ON: Gray 1 run (Sargbah kick)
Rushing: OB, Burks 31-223, Chadwick 6-71, Gio Mainor 2-(minus 4). ON, Gray 20-176, Sargbah 21-160, Vernon Johnson 1-21, Houston Fogelstrom 5-(minus 23), team 4-(minus 4).
Passing: OB, Chadwick 7-12-0 131. ON, Fogelstrom 2-10-0 17.
Receiving: OB, Davis 4-37, Watts 3-94. ON, Sargbah 1-18, Johnson 1-(minus 1).