Hail Varsity was on the scene in Millard on Friday night at Buell Stadium to check out the Class A semifinal double-header. First, Omaha Westside took down Millard South, 31-14. Westside is playing great football right now, getting hot at right time. The Warriors are heading to their first state final since 2013. In the late game, Bellevue West was tested against Millard West but pulled out a 37-30 win.
Hats off to the Millard West crowd and student section. Their energy—which was matched by Bellevue West’s crowd—made for a big-time atmosphere in a great game. The game Friday night featured so many terrific athletes on both sides. Congratulations to everyone on a hard-fought evening of high school football.
Here are my five thoughts from all the action.
Cole Payton Arrives
The Omaha Westside signal caller came into the game with much less fanfare than his counterpart T.J. Urban. Yet, it was Payton who has had a phenomenal run through the playoffs. He continued his strong play on Friday night. He was steady all night and accounted for four total touchdowns in the game. The state is getting introduced to Cole Payton.
Dickerson Doing Little Things
Star cornerback Avante Dickerson had a great play early in the game with his one-handed interception. That really got the ball rolling for his team. But, that wasn’t what impressed me most about him on Friday night. He was a willing tackler which was needed against Millard South’s attack. He was also a great perimeter blocker as a wide receiver helping spring several runs. His competitive sport was shining which is why he’s so highly sought after.
Bellevue West Drive of the Season
For the first time this season, Bellevue West found itself trailing after a Millard West touchdown made it 23-22 late in the third quarter. A quick strike to Huskers wide receiver commit Zavier Betts for a 31-yard score was all that was needed to salt the game away. The Thunderbirds put together a 16-play drive that ate up more than seven minutes of clock. For a team known for its quick strike ability, they showed versatility in putting the game away.
Record Setting Jay Ducker
Bellevue West’s first three touchdowns came from Jay Ducker. He broke the 11-man record for career touchdowns. Now at 107, he passed the 105 by Moses Bryant of Elkhorn South. At that point the Storm were still in Class B. Ducker ended the semifinal game with 177 rushing yards. The Northern Illinois commit powers their rushing attack. That makes the Thunderbirds tough to beat as the weather turns.
State Title Excitement
The matchup between Bellevue West and Omaha Westside will be a fun one. The Thunderbirds were expected to get to Lincoln all season long. Westside was a bit under the radar all season despite being a talented bunch. There are some outstanding individual matchups in this game to look forward to. Zavier Betts versus 2021 4-star cornerback Avante Dickerson should be great. So will Huskers walk-on outside linebacker Grant Tagge trying to slow down Ducker. Also, the Class B rematch of last year’s title game between Omaha Skutt and Scottsbluff should be a lot of fun.
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.