Footballs on Nebraska High School Football Field
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

South Tops West in the Battle for Millard

September 21, 2020

Millard West may have been designated as the home team on Friday night, but Millard South proved Buell Stadium belongs to the Patriots as they took down the Wildcats 31-12.

It’s the first win for South over West since 2012, snapping a seven-game losing streak for the Patriots against their rival. Millard South (3-0) smacked Millard North 33-0 in week one, making them the kings of Millard for the 2020 season.

The defensive front sevens for both teams controlled the action throughout the first half as neither team was able to sustain any kind of offensive rhythm. A 29-yard field goal by Millard South’s Cole Lammel were the only points in the first half as Millard South took a 3-0 lead into halftime.

Millard West’s defense, led by standout middle linebacker James Conway, limited Millard South to 51 net yards of offense, 38 of which came on one run by running back Taekwon Johnson (which led to the Lammel field goal). Quarterback TJ Urban, an Air Force commit, completed just one of his six pass attempts for 6 yards and only mustered 15 rushing yards on six carries.

Millard West was only slightly better at moving the ball—totaling 88 net yards of offense—but the Wildcats never found the end zone and missed a 32-yard field goal late in the second quarter.

The game completely flipped in the third quarter, however. Millard South got the ball to start the half and on the first snap, Urban found a gaping hole and sprinted downfield for a 21-yard gain to set the tone. The Patriots continued to move the ball, and Urban eventually punched it in from the 1-yard line to cap an eight-play, 61-yard scoring drive.

“I was really proud of the way they came out at halftime,” Millard South coach Andy Means said. “I wanted the ball to start the second half, so that’s why we deferred. They took it and went down and scored. That was huge.”

After forcing a three-and-out by the Wildcats, Urban went deep to junior wideout Gage Stenger on first down and picked up 39 yards. Two runs later and Urban was in the end zone again with a 9-yard touchdown, giving Millard South a 17-0 lead.

“We started out slow,” Urban said. “Just in the locker room we were like ‘All right, it’s time to go now; we can’t be messing around.’ The O-line just came together at halftime and they started getting me out in the open just like we wanted to. We couldn’t really get that the past two games and this game it really just broke loose.”

Millard West is typically an option-heavy team, but the Wildcats had a tough time running up the middle against Millard South’s stout defensive line led by tackles Nolan Olafson and Jonah Matthews, and the Patriots did a good job limiting the perimeter runs as well.

“We knew we were going to have to stop that,” Means said. “We worked on that a lot during the week and I thought the kids did a good job of preparing for it and then executing tonight.”

Millard West all but gave up on its standard running game and put the ball in quarterback Jacob Jones’ hands, and to his credit he and his receivers made some big plays.

The Wildcats put together back-to-back scoring drives, the first one aided by a one-handed catch from senior wide receiver Evan Meyersick that went for 81 yards down to the 1-yard line.

Jones finished it off on the next play to get the Wildcats on the board, then after a Millard South three-and-out Jones threw the ball to junior running back Nathan Pedersen in the flat and he sprinted up the left sideline for a 68-yard touchdown. However, both extra points failed, making it 17-12 with just over two minutes to play in the third quarter.

It was all Millard South the rest of the way.

On the next drive, junior running back Christian Nash ripped off a 69-yard run and Urban ran the ball in from 5 yards out for his third touchdown of the period with 40 seconds to go.

Millard South forced a punt, but a special teams miscue gave the Wildcats another shot as the ball bounced off a blocker’s foot and a Wildcat dove on top of it. However, after Millard West entered the red zone Jones took a shot at the end zone and Antrell Taylor came down with it for the Millard South interception.

Millard South chewed up some clock before punting the ball away then forced a turnover on downs with 3:34 to play. Millard South forced Millard West to use all three of its timeouts to stop the clock, then on fourth and 1, Nash broke through for a 17-yard gain to move the chains then followed it up with a 16-yard sprint into the end zone for an insurance touchdown with 1:50 to play.

After failing to connect with Stenger in the first half, Urban found his star receiver six times for 83 yards in the second half.

“Gage and I weren’t in sync at the beginning,” Urban said. “I had to start just putting it where he could catch it, I was almost leading him too far trying to do almost too much. I had to pull together, like ‘All right, just get the ball in his hands, complete passes,’ and that’s what I did.”

Urban finished 7-for-13 for 89 yards through the air and ran the ball 24 times for 114 yards and three touchdowns. Of his 203 total yards, 141 came in the third quarter.

“That’s why he’s got a scholarship to Air Force,” Means said. “He just took over. We had to do some things block-wise, scheming-wise, to get him loose a little bit, but I thought we did a great job of that. The kids did a great job of handling that and TJ, again, that’s why he got a scholarship.”

Nash ran for 97 yards and a touchdown on five carries while Johnson added 68 yards on five runs. As a team, the Patriots ran for 280 yards and four touchdowns on 41 carries.

Millard West coach Kirk Peterson wasn’t happy with his offense despite the 373 net yards the Wildcats put up. Millard West only totaled 91 yards rushing on 34 carries. Jones finished 14-of-26 for 262 yards, though Peterson called it “a little backyard-ish” as Jones had to extend plays with his feet and try to make something happen all night. He added 54 yards on the ground on 18 carries.

Meyersick led the Wildcats with 112 yards on five receptions. Tight end Trace Thaden added 56 yards on four catches. Pederson accounted for 98 total yards and a score on 12 touches.

Means was happy with the defensive effort overall, but he still saw some areas that need to be cleaned up before next Friday when high-powered Bellevue West comes to Buell.

“I’m not a fan of big plays; we’ve got to get rid of those because the team next week can get big plays,” Means said. “We’ve got to eliminate those defensively and we’ll address that in practice this week.”

As for the Wildcats (1-2), they currently have an open date next week with Kearney having to quarantine.

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