Everyone loves a good comeback story.
If Omaha North gets its wish, the story won’t end on Friday night in the semifinals against Gretna. The Vikings are on one of the biggest surprise runs in recent memory in the Class A playoffs. The odds were certainly against the team making this type of run this year.
The Vikings didn’t play last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. No one quite knew what the impact would be this season for Omaha Public Schools that weren’t able to play football in 2020. The results were not pretty across the board. Omaha Northwest, Omaha South and Omaha Bryan all finished 1-8. Omaha Benson and Omaha Central finished 3-6. Burke was the only OPS school to finish the regular season with a winning record.
Coming into the season, Omaha North knew it would have a tough road. Quarterback Jordan Williams told Hail Varsity in the preseason that the team was trying to get back into the groove.
“There has been a lot of regrouping I’d say from not having a season last year,” Williams said at the time. “We’ve been in the weight room a lot. We’ve been really going real hard. The team has done a couple of football camps here and there. Just trying to get back to the groove of playing football has been really good.”
Omaha North started its season 0-5. The chances of even making the playoffs were slim. The one thing that stands out about that five-game losing streak to start the season is the quality of opponents faced. Four of the five losses came to teams that made the playoffs. The team gained valuable experience after missing the 2020 season through that stretch of games. A seven-point win over Omaha Central got the ball rolling for the Vikings and they haven’t lost since Oct. 1.
The team’s deep run in the playoffs started by pulling off a huge upset of No. 1 seed Millard South in the opening round of the playoffs. Last week’s 35-34 win over North Platte was a difficult road test for coach Larry Martin’s team. Travelling across the state for a playoff game is always tough. North found a way in part because of a blocked extra point.
Omaha North has a talented trio on offense for Gretna to worry about. Williams has been a dynamic playmaker at quarterback for the team. He’s battled through inconsistency issues early in the season. His top receiver is Keshaun Williams, who made the game-winning touchdown catch against the Patriots in that first-round playoff game. He has 14 touchdowns on the season. The secret sauce to the offense is running back Te’Shaun Porter. He’s one of the best kept secrets in a state loaded with talented high school running backs. He has 1,528 yards and 18 touchdowns on the season.
The experience gained along the way for North will be put to the test in the semifinals against Gretna. Winning a third straight road game to make the state championship is hard. So is preparing for a Gretna team that can hurt you in a variety of ways. Everyone comes into games against Gretna trying to slow down quarterback Zane Flores. The signal-caller has racked up 2,408 yards with 24 touchdowns and five interceptions this season. His eight touchdowns on the ground show his willingness to be versatile too.
One of the big stories of the postseason for the Dragons is the team’s ability to run the ball. Having balance on offense is key with senior running back Mick Huber leading the way. Huber had over 1,000 all-purpose yards on the season and 12 touchdowns. He’s stepped his play up during this playoff run too. Huber is also a key player on the Dragons defense as the team’s leader in tackles with 88 this season.
If Gretna wants to make its first-ever trip to Memorial Stadium for a state title game, the team will have to win the battle in the trenches. North features one of the better defensive lines in the state. If the weather turns bad, that could be more of a factor because it’d be more difficult for Flores to pass the ball.
Both programs feel like there is more to prove and accomplish this season. This should be a great high school football game. The winner faces off against either Omaha Westside or Bellevue West for the Class A state title.
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.