football sits on the yard line during a game
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

5 Thoughts on Millard South’s 33-7 Win over Elkhorn South

September 03, 2021

Hail Varsity was on the sidelines at Buell Stadium on Thursday night for the showdown between two top-five teams in Millard South and Elkhorn South.

The schools squeezed the game in between the storms that rolled through the Omaha metro, but the Storm couldn’t avoid what the Patriots had in store for them on the field. Millard South rolled to a 33-7 win with Elkhorn South’s only touchdown coming late in the third quarter with the Storm leading 33-0.

Here are five thoughts on the game.

Gage Stenger is a Game-Changer

The biggest difference-maker on the field Thursday night was Millard South quarterback Gage Stenger. The Kansas State linebacker commit has played all over the field during his career at Millard South but has settled in as the team’s starting signal caller as a senior and controlled the action throughout.

Unofficially, Stenger finished 10-of-14 passing for 130 yards and three touchdowns and he led the Patriots in rushing with 77 yards and another score on nine carries. He actually scored a second rushing touchdown but had it taken off the board as he got called for taunting at the 2-yard line on his way into the end zone for pointing at the defender running over late.

Stenger had a 20-yard scramble on third-and-12, a 16-yard touchdown run on third-and-6 and the touchdown run that was taken away, which went down as a 25-yard gain. His passing numbers were impressive as well considering he was under heavy pressure all night (more on that in a moment).

The Patriots lost a big-time playmaking quarterback from last year with TJ Urban heading off to Air Force, but they’re in very capable hands with Stenger running the show.

Maverick Noonan is a Monster

Maverick Noonan, the 2023 Huskers target and son of former Husker Danny Noonan, looked every bit the part of a high-level college prospect on Thursday night as he applied constant pressure from his defensive end spot.

On Millard South’s second drive of the game, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound end made back-to-back plays in the backfield with a tackle for loss and a sack, which gave the Patriots a third-and-18 and led to a three-and-out.

Perhaps the rep that impressed me most, however, was one that didn’t even end in a sack. NebPreps’ Mike Sautter captured it below.

The speed, the balance and the bend to get around the left tackle, the presence of mind to pull up at the end instead of driving the quarterback further into the turf and risk a penalty… Noonan is an impressive pass-rushing prospect. He’s a good run defender as well as Millard South didn’t find much success on the ground against the Elkhorn South front outside of Stenger improvising. He also played some right tackle and helped the Storm convert a fourth-and-2 on the ground.

Noonan announced he had received an offer from Kansas on Friday morning following his big performance.

Antrell Taylor: Playmaker

Millard South definitely had the edge at the skill positions on Thursday as a few different guys made some big plays downfield. The most dynamic Patriot besides Stenger was Nebraska wrestling commit Antrell Taylor.

Taylor, who Millard South uses in a Duck-R type of role for the Nebraska fans reading this, led the Patriots with 70 yards receiving and a touchdown on three catches. He also ran the ball three times for 18 yards and passed for a 7-yard touchdown on a double-reverse (which followed the Stenger taunting flag).

Taylor’s receiving touchdown came on a screen pass that should have been stopped near the line of scrimmage. He had other plans, however, breaking a tackle or two and taking it all the way for a 55-yard score.

Jake Gassaway, a Northern Illinois commit who plays both ways for the Patriots, also had three catches for 29 yards including a 10-yard end zone on a jump ball that he tipped to himself and had the presence of mind to haul in as he was falling to the ground.

Cole Ballard Continued to Battle

Elkhorn South struggled mightily to get anything going on offense. They gained just 77 yards through the air on 22 passes with two interceptions and they struggled to run the ball in the first half as well.

However, the Storm has a talented back in junior Cole Ballard and he kept running hard all game, eventually finding success. He finished with 11 carries for 85 yards and the Storm’s only touchdown.

After gaining just seven yards on his first three carries, Ballard gained 4 or more yards on the rest of his carries outside of the 1-yard touchdown. He had runs of 9, 21, 8, 21 and 9 yards. Ballard has terrific feet with a strong jump cut move and good acceleration, and he hits the hole hard when it’s there.

Millard South’s Strong Start

Millard South is off to a 2-0 start this season after dispatching Millard North and Elkhorn South, outscoring their opponents 88-21 in the process. They lost a lot up front from last year’s team that went 8-2 with their only losses coming to Bellevue West and Omaha Westside.

Urban surpassed 2,000 yards combined between his passing and rushing and scored 24 touchdowns. Tackling machine Tate Hinrichs is gone as are Taekwon Johnson and Reggie Harris, their third- and fourth-leading rushers. Millard South had to replace almost everyone up front.

The rushing attack against tough competition is still a question as lead back Christian Nash had just 20 yards on six carries against Elkhorn South’s talented defensive line. Stenger also got sacked three times. That being said, the Patriots have plenty of talent in Stenger, Taylor, Gassaway, Brock Murtaugh, Lance Rucker and others and should be in the Class A title hunt all season long as long as they continue to develop in the trenches.

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