The second round of the Class A playoffs are here in Nebraska. It was a wild opening round of the playoffs with some major upsets along the way. The first round saw the No. 2 seed Omaha Westside take down No. 15 seed Papillon-La Vista South 49-0. Then No. 7 seed Omaha Burke eliminated No. 10 Lincoln Southeast 21-3 in the first round.
Burke has had an interesting road to get here. The team is 8-2 overall on the season. After not playing football in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bulldogs were rusty to start the season. I saw them in the season opener against Bellevue West. It didn’t look like a team poised to make a bit of a run in the state playoffs. The team has settled in and have gone 8-1 since that week one loss. That loss was to No. 1 seed Millard South in the regular season.
The Omaha Westside Warriors haven’t lost a game since the 2019 playoffs. There has not been a lot of talk about the chances to repeat this season. Part of that is because the team lost a lot of big-time talent. Losing Cole Payton, Avante Dickerson, Koby Bretz and Cade Haberman is a lot for any team to lose. Westside had to break in a lot of young but talented players this season. The Warriors were also hurt this season by perception that their schedule was light.
Even with all that, all they’ve done is keep winning. With the No. 1 seed Millard South losing in the first round to No. 16 seed Omaha North, Westside has to be viewed as the favorites to win it all right now. The team has a lot of postseason experience that serving the Warriors well to make a deep run.
Coach Brett Froendt says his team will need another strong defensive performance this week. His team is facing off against a well-balanced Burke attack.
“The keys to the game for us are stopping their penetrating front with the quick passing game and being successful on first down to make 2nd down more unpredictable,” Froendt said. “Being patient on offense and moving the ball with 8+ play drives is key. Defensively, providing the QB different looks and getting them behind the chains early in each series. Making them one dimensional in that respect would be good. They have a good diversified offense.”
If Westside is going to meet its goal of being patient on offense, running back Dominic Rezac will be a big part of that. He’s one of the best running backs in Class A this year. Rezac might be one of the most underappreciated players in the state relative to how much he means to his team. The senior has totaled 1,263 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns this season. He was also a key cog as a starter on last year’s state title-winning team.
That clip is from Rezac’s junior season since he doesn’t have senior film uploaded yet. But you can see his patience, vision and speed on that run. The Air Force commit is the engine that makes the Westside offense go.
On the other side of the ball, Omaha Burke’s key players are at the second level of the defense.
Freshman linebacker Christian Jones has gotten a lot of attention lately. The class of 2025 prospect recently picked up an offer from the Huskers and looks poised to be Burke’s next big star. The team’s current big star is Oregon commit Devon Jackson. If Burke wants to slow down the Westside rushing attack then Jackson will have to come up big.
He has steadily improved over the course of the 2021 season. He was rusty when I saw him the first week of the season but you can see the athleticism he has to impact the game. There is an x-factor in the game. Can Burke can get Jackson the ball on offense where his speed makes him a threat for a touchdown every play? Burke offense doesn’t typically put up big points. Any big plays they can add would be welcome for coach Paul Limongi.
The matchup between Rezac and Jackson will go a long way in determining who wins this game on Friday night. It should produce a fun chess match between the coaches. There are a lot of good athletes on both teams that will need to be in the best positions possible to succeed. Each of these programs feel like they have something to prove in this matchup. This should be a really good second-round matchup in the Class A playoffs.
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.