If Thursday night had a theme, “change” might feel the most appropriate.
Take the weather, for example. The temperature was in the 90s in Nebraska just two weeks ago. On Thursday night, Elkhorn and Waverly kicked off with a brisk temperature of 55 degrees and a light mist. By the time the game ended, the temperature had dropped at least a few degrees—it felt like more—and the rain had picked up steam.
“Pay attention to the breeze,” an Elkhorn coach shouted multiple times throughout the later part of the game as the two teams kicked and punted the ball. There was a steady breeze, and it had the potential to affect the kicking game. It wasn’t the most ideal of football weather, but it sure felt like fall.
There was also the announcement of homecoming court at halftime. This week was “homecoming week” for Elkhorn High School, and students spent it celebrating with themed days. While the “EHS Homecoming Dance” is still listed on the school’s calendar for Saturday, Elkhorn did something new on Thursday. The Antlers announced their king and queen right then and there, which the announcer said was a change from how it was usually done.
As for the game itself, it found its way on TV thanks to KXVO’s Thursday Night Lights. It wasn’t supposed to be there though. KXVO made the switch when the original game scheduled for Thursday—Creighton Prep vs. Bellevue West—was cancelled due to COVID-19. The change put Elkhorn and Waverly front and center in Omaha.
Those who tuned in were treated to a defensive battle between the Antlers and the Vikings. It ended with a 13-7 Elkhorn win, but it wasn’t an easy victory for the Antlers. Waverly came into the matchup undefeated and ranked first in Class B after defeating Omaha Skutt the week before, snapping the SkyHawks’ 27-game win streak. Elkhorn was No. 5 in the class, and looking for a second straight victory after losing its home opener to Norris.
The two programs held each other scoreless in the first half before Elkhorn finally got on the board early in the third quarter. All it took was a major pass and catch from quarterback Grant Gutschow to Gannon Gragert for the Antlers to take the lead. They held on to it too, until Waverly tied it up early in the fourth quarter. From there, it felt like another defensive battle was in store but Elkhorn managed to seal the deal only two minutes after the Vikings’ score. Despite missing the extra point, Elkhorn’s 13-7 lead was it and ultimately the final score.
Elkhorn held Waverly to only 177 yards of total offense, with 153 on the ground and 24 in the air. The Antlers’ defense really got going in the second half, holding the Vikings to just one completed pass for 5 yards.
For Elkhorn, the win was redemption. Things had changed since the Antlers were the top-ranked team in preseason, but they were ready to show what they could do. On Thursday, in front of a small crowd for both teams but a presumably larger one watching from home, Elkhorn did just that.
Next up for both teams? Elkhorn travels to Blair and Waverly to Grand Island Northwest on on Friday, Sept. 18.
Erin is the Deputy Editor and Digital Marketing Strategist for Hail Varsity. She has covered Nebraska athletics since 2012, which has included stops at Bleacher Report, Cox Media Group’s Land of 10, and even Hail Varsity (previously from 2012-2017). She has also been featured on the Big Ten Network, NET’s Big Red Wrap-Up, and a varsity of radio shows nationwide. When not covering the Huskers, Erin is probably at Chipotle.