Raise your hand if you thought we’d have the state championship football recap in August? September? This Monday? What great work by so many people to get the state football finals pulled off on short time. From the NSAA (especially football director Nate Neuhaus), the team at NET with the help of Striv to get all the games live streamed. It was truly a unique day in Nebraska high school football and it went pretty dang well.
Time to rest and bend the curve. While your at it, how about a look at video that honored the finalists from Striv Sports and the NSAA.
Class A: Payton’s Place
STORYLINE: Elkhorn South scored with two minutes left in the first half to tie Omaha Westside on Friday night and appeared poised for a halftime tie. Then, Westside did Westside stuff. Koby Bretz zipped for a huge kick return and then quarterback Cole Payton turned magic man and found Bretz for a last first half touchdown and a 21-14 halftime lead. When Westside scored on the first possession of the second half, they were in full control to a 37-21 win in the Class A final. Our Mike Sautter had post-game reaction.
THE NUMBERS: Payton’s final game included all five of the Warrior touchdowns (three rushing, two passing), 139 yards on the ground and 218 through the air.
THEY SAID IT: “We knew we had all the right pieces to get it done. Why not us; why not us. That was our theme this year. We circled this day on our calendar as soon as we lost last year.” – Westside quarterback Cole Payton
Class B: Antler Tradition
STORYLINE: Elkhorn won their sixth Class B state title under coach Mark Wortman with a dominating second half as they cruised to 42-19 win over Aurora at Elkhorn Stadium. Nebraska walk-on commit Aiden Young ran for 110 yards and also scored on a 76-yard kickoff return in the first half to buoy the victors.
THE NUMBERS: The number for Elkhorn was three. The Antlers broke their 13-13 halftime tie with Aurora on a 22-0 third quarter with touchdown runs from Aiden Young and Grant Gutschow and a 22-yard pass from Gutschow to Gannon Gragert on fourth-and-17.
THEY SAID IT: “We did it for Coach. And for the Elkhorn community.” — Elkhorn’s Aiden Young
Class C-1: The Jays Zone
STORYLINE: Pierce finished perfect in Class C-1, a season after getting blanked in the 2019 state championship. At home on Friday night, they scored first and never trailed in a 28-19 win over Adams Central. Despite being outgained by the Patriots — in their first title game since 1993 — the Jays defense came up big with three turnovers that stalled AC drives.
THE NUMBERS: Tyler Race scored just minutes into the game on a 48-yard run and finished with 127 yards on 19 carries.
THEY SAID IT: “This group of seniors has always kind of been waiting in the wings behind last year’s senior class. Our senior class last year was really a good football class, and they deserved this kind of a championship as much as this group.” — Pierce coach Mark Brehmer
Class C-2: History for Ord
STORYLINE: After Ord survived the first quarter with only six offensive plays and two punts, the Chants got untracked in the second quarter as they scored 21 unanswered points to take full control of the Class C-2 title game against Fremont Bergan before going on to claim a 28-7 win at Heedum Field.
THE NUMBERS: Tommy Stevens and Zach Smith both hit 100 yards rushing, but maybe the bigger number for Ord was three. The Chants picked off Bergan quarterback Koa McIntyre three times including a pick-six in the second quarter from Quentin Ries.
THEY SAID IT: “It means a lot; these kids worked extremely hard and we have really great leaders. They’ve learned a lot from former players, and they were the foundation for this.” — Ord coach Nate Wells
Class D-1: Tiger Thriller
STORYLINE: The game of the night, may have been in Burwell as Dundy County-Stratton scored in the last minute and got a Houdini conversion pass to tie the game at 28. Then, in overtime, each team scored and got two-point conversions runs so we played on. In the second overtime, moving first, DCS went ahead 42-36 on Quade Myers 10-yard run on the first play. Then the Tiger defense snuffed our a wide sweep play on 4th down and 5 to win it. It was DCS’ first state championship.
THE NUMBERS: As advertised, the “runners” were great all night. The teams combined for over 500 yards rushing. Myers and Serbando Diaz combined for 285 yards on 60 carries and for Burwell, Caleb Busch 40 attempts for 218 yards.
THEY SAID IT: “Hats off to that team over there. It’s a good group, very well-coached and very deserving of what they did there. That was a hard-fought game that somebody had to lose, and tonight it was us.” — gracious in defeat, Burwell coach Luke Gideon
Class D-2: Back On Top
STORYLINE: Down 20-14 at the half, BDS came back for a 36-28 win over Sandhills/Thedford in the Class D-2 championship game. The Eagle defense got a big stand inside the 5-yard line in the third quarter and then took the lead with a fourth and short conversion of their own inside the S/T 5 that lead to Dalton Kleinschmidt’s touchdown and the lead for good at 28-20.
THE NUMBERS: A big play night in Shickley as five of the games touchdowns covered 30 yards or more. Kleinschmidt had 142 yards rushing on the night.
THEY SAID IT: “I’m from (Shickley), and we’ve never lost here, so I was telling the Bruning guys that this is the better field. When I heard it wasn’t at Lincoln I was pretty disappointed, but then I realized it would be here and I got pretty excited. It was awesome.” — BDS back Dalton Kleinschmidt
Class D-6: Thoroughbreds
STORYLINE: Owen McDonald had a day and a night and a next day against Sterling in the Six-Man final. McDonald scored eight touchdowns in the Mustangs 70-20 win over the Jets as McCool set the Class D-6 record for rushing yards in a game with 508. McDonald set multiple class records in the win, the first football championship in the playoff era for the Mustangs.
THE NUMBERS: Not only did the Mustangs set the Class D-6 team record for rushing yards in a game, McDonald eclipsed the record for single-game rushing yards (396), tied the record for touchdowns in a game (8) and broke the record for points scored in a game (64).
THEY SAID IT: “I woke up this morning and I was so nervous, I was sick to my stomach. I am just grateful for this opportunity.” — McCool Junction standout Owen McDonald