The Lincoln East Spartans continued to roll on Thursday night, lighting up Millard West at Seacrest Field for a 41-10 victory to improve to 5-1.
Here are five thoughts on the game.
Welcome to the Walters Show
I’ve been hearing all about what Lincoln East quarterback Noah Walters has been doing this season, but Thursday was my first opportunity to see him play in person, and boy did he live up to the hype.
The 6-foot-1 senior was essentially perfect through three quarters, completing his first 15 passes with plenty of deep shots mixed in. His first incompletion didn’t come until the fourth quarter with the game already well in-hand.
Walters unofficially finished 16-of-21 for 379 yards and six touchdowns. He was 12-for-12 for 307 yards and five scores in the first half, and the Spartans led by 25 at the break. His touchdowns passes went for 15, 49, 54, 41, 15 and 57 yards.
Walters now has thrown for five or six touchdowns in four straight games. He has 1,225 yards and 17 touchdowns in his last three games. In six games this season, he’s competed 66.9% of his passes for 2,044 yards and 28 touchdowns with just one interception.
He is absolutely silly.
Millard West ultimately didn’t have enough firepower to keep up with the Spartans, but the Wildcats did top 200 yards rushing and average nearly 4.5 yards per carry.
The biggest reason for that was senior running back Nathan Pederson, who nearly totaled 200 yards from scrimmage. Pederson ran the ball 28 times for 160 yards (5.7 yards per carry) and Millard West’s only touchdown, and he also caught three passes for 38 yards. He had six carries of double-digit yardage with a high of 28, and he also had a 31-yard catch-and-run.
East bottled Pederson up in the second half, but he racked up 133 yards and 19 carries in the first two quarters. He’s only listed at 5-foot-7 and 180 pounds, but he runs hard and he’s tough to tackle.
Making a Stand
Through one quarter of play, it looked like neither team was going to be able to stop the other on Thursday. Heading into the second, East led 14-7 and the Wildcats were driving deep into Spartan territory.
After nine straight runs, Millard West had a third-and-3 at the East 7-yard line. The Wildcats kept the ball on the ground again, and Malachi Coleman slipped through to drop Pederson a yard short of the line to gain. Knowing they weren’t going to win the game with field goals, West went for it on fourth down, and the Spartans stopped them for a loss. Linebacker Trey Bott rushed unblocked off the edge while defensive tackles Ge’Auvieon Crayton and Sam Cappos got penetration up front, leaving Pederson nowhere to run.
East struck five plays later to take a 21-7 lead. Millard West put together another extended drive that stalled out at the East 7 once again, but this time they settled for a field goal to make it 21-10.
East squeezed two more touchdowns in before halftime, the second one thanks to a blocked punt by Coleman. He also had a sack, a quarterback hit and another quarterback hurry. Coleman only had one catch on offense, but he was all over the field on defense. He’s certainly a name to know for the in-state 2023 class.
*Update: Coleman announced on Friday night that he had received and offer from Nebraska.
— Malachi Coleman (@ChiColeman23) October 1, 2021
Walters is a terrific quarterback, but his receivers do a great job of making him look good as well. East has five receivers averaging better than 15 yards per catch on better than one reception per game.
On Thursday, it was Cooper Erikson, East’s leading receiver, who stepped up once again. He set a new career high in receiving yards before halftime and went on to finish with six catches for 230 yards and three touchdowns. He scored from 49, 54 and 57, and also had gains of 36 and 28.
Millard West just didn’t have enough speed in the back end to keep up with Erikson, and Walters made them pay for it.
Luke Greisen added four receptions 69 yards and a touchdown. AJ Seizys chipped in two catches for 45 yards and Kamdyn Roebke had the final touchdown on a 15-yard catch. East did all that without second-leading receiver Billie Stephenson as well.
Try to Keep Up
East runs by far the fastest offense I’ve seen this season. The Spartans hustled to the line after every play, successful or not. I keep a play-by-play from the sideline when I’m at a game, and I was having a hard time marking down one play before East’s next snap.
East’s offense is deadly enough with all of the weapons that Walters has to choose from on any given play. Add the speed with which they attack and it stresses a defense even more.
The tempo is fast, and East has the quick-strike ability to match. The Spartans’ six touchdown drives consisted of four plays, two plays, five plays, seven plays, two plays and two plays. Defenses can’t relax for one second or else the Spartans will make them pay. East has topped 40 points in each of its last four games.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.