Hail Varsity was on the scene in Gretna for the Class A opening round matchup between the No. 5 seed Gretna Dragons and the No. 12 seed Lincoln East Spartans. It was a highly-anticipated matchup that figured to feature lots of scoring. That happened as Gretna moves on to the second round after a 59-42 win. This now sets up a rematch from the regular season as Gretna will take on Elkhorn South in the next round. That 28-20 loss to Elkhorn South in early November was the Dragons’ only loss of the season.
Here are my five thoughts from Gretna’s win over Lincoln East.
Fireworks as expected
A lot of times you are surprised when you think you know what you’ll get from a high school football game. We certainly saw that around the state in the opening round of the playoffs. That wasn’t the case in Gretna for this game. Everyone thought the scoreboard would be lit up and that happened. There was plenty of passing and rushing touchdowns in the game. There was also a kickoff return for a touchdown and a scoop-and-score. These teams found almost every way possible to put points up which made for a fun game.
It was tough to see the season have to end for one of these two signal-callers. Gretna’s Zane Flores and Lincoln East’s Noah Walters are the best quarterbacks in Nebraska. Walters’ team lost but he had five passing touchdowns and a rushing score. Flores hit pay dirt four total times in the game. Gretna coach Mike Kayl was impressed with what he saw out of the two quarterbacks.
“At the high school level, I don’t know that I’ve ever coached in a game with two quarterbacks slinging it like those two were,” Kayl said. “Fortunately, we were able to make a few more plays, but hats off to these guys because that’s a great team over there.”
Coming into the game Walters needed about 300 yards to break former Lincoln High quarterback Cedric Case’s state passing record. He safely passed that record throwing for more 400 yards on Friday night.
Huge night for Huber
Both passing offenses are prolific. The team that could get something on ground would have a big edge. Senior running back Mick Huber came up huge for the Dragons. Huber has a career high 28 carries for 172 yards. He also scored a rushing touchdown and had a receiving touchdown.
— Greg Smith (@GregSmithHV) October 30, 2021
Huber is a major key for the Dragons moving forward through the playoffs. It’s tough to expect career bests each round. Getting some balance on offense will go a long way for Gretna.
Coleman as run defender
Class of 2023 athlete Malachi Coleman caught a touchdown in Friday night’s game. He made some other impressive catches on offense. He also had a sack in the game and a handful of pressures. Yet what impressed me most about his game was his ability to help stop the run. Coleman is often talked about as a speed rusher off the edge. Yet, he consistently flashed in the Spartans’ run defense. It will be interesting see what the senior version of Coleman looks like after another offseason in the weight room. After his Nebraska offer, his recruitment is starting to pick up steam, too. He visited Wisconsin recently and has several Big Ten schools interested.
Good adjustments by Gretna
Lincoln East led this game at halftime 28-24. Walters tossed four touchdowns in the first half. The Spartans didn’t punt for the first time until midway through the third quarter. Credit the Dragons’ coaching staff for adjusting at half to get the game turned around.
“We knew we would have some difficulty stopping their quarterback and their receivers,” Kayl said. “It wasn’t the best start in the world by us but our kids reacted well and it just became a shootout. We made some plays late in the game that just kind of put us over the top.”
A lot of what helped the Dragons in the second half was getting more pressure on Walters. The only real way to slow that East offense down is to get them off schedule and pressure Walters. That helped Gretna seize the momentum in the second half of the game.
— Greg Smith (@GregSmithHV) October 30, 2021
Greg is the Recruiting Analyst for Hail Varsity and has covered Husker athletics since 2013. He has always had a passion for sports while growing up in the Chicago area. As he got older and had to hang up his cleats and sneakers, he realized his passion for sports went beyond just watching and attending games. He has covered many events from the Rose Bowl to championship boxing matches. If he’s not talking sports, he’s hovering over his grill. He is married to an amazing woman, Kim, and they have a dog that barks when Greg yells at the TV during games.