Omaha Creighton Prep closed out the regular season in dominant fashion on Friday night, outplaying Lincoln East in every phase of the game en route to a 52-7 blowout at Burke Stadium.
Here are five thoughts on the game.
From week three through week eight, the Spartans averaged 49 points per game. Their low total during that stretch was 38. Lincoln East averaged 491 yards from scrimmage during those six games including 388.7 yards per game through the air.
On Friday night, however, the Junior Jays had their number. They dominated the line of scrimmage and gave Lincoln East’s prolific quarterback, Noah Walters, very little time to make throws.
East’s first five drives of the game produced a grand total of 3 net yards, one interception and four punts. East’s most productive drive of the half was its last, a three-play, 16-yard drive that ended as the clock expired. Prep led 31-0 at halftime.
The Juniors Jays forced two more punts to start the second half, then the Spartans finally got a break with a kickoff return to midfield. However, they spoiled the field position with three straight incomplete passes than gained 9 yards on fourth-and-10, turning the ball back over on downs.
Including penalties, East finished with 129 net yards in the game. Seventy-five of those years came on the final drive of the game as Walters finally marched his team down the field with a couple of explosive passes then found Cooper Erikson in the end zone for a touchdown as time ran out (though the officials looked the other way on a pretty blatant offensive pass interference).
Prep had three sacks (one apiece by Rocco Marcelino, Owen Shotkoski and Ryan Kearney) in the first half, and Walters was under constant pressure all night. East tried to run a lot of screens and quick passing game, but Prep defenders were there on the catch nearly every time.
The interception was just Walters’ fourth of the season. Kearney hit Walters as he released the ball, forcing it to go high and bounced off the intended target’s hands, and John Pargo pulled it down. The Junior Jays also got a punt block from Nick Kieny which Sam Rodino scooped up and ran back 20-plus yards for a touchdown. In the second half, Pierce Johnson returned a punt back 60-plus yards for a touchdown as well.
Creighton Prep held six of its nine opponents (Omaha Westside, Papillion-La Vista, Bellevue West, Lincoln Southeast and Papillion-La Vista South) to their season low in points. THis defense is for real.
Jack is the [Stess]man
Junior running Back CharMar ‘Marty’ Brown had been on a tear the last four weeks, topping the century mark in each game and totaling 708 yards and 10 touchdowns during the stretch. He gained 25 yards on the first three plays of the game, then on the fourth he went down and stayed there.
Brown eventually limped off the field under his own power, but he did not return to the game. I was told the injury was minor and he could have returned if Prep had needed him to, but, well, they didn’t need him to.
Senior Jack Stessman stepped in as the workhorse back and ran roughshod over the Spartan defense. Stessman racked up 147 yards and three scores on 17 first-half carries, then ran four more times for 43 yards and another touchdown. The score came on a 20-yard run that included four or five broken tackles.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound back finished with 21 carries for a season-high 190 yards. He had topped 90 yards twice previously, but had never hit triple digits. The four touchdowns was a new personal best as well.
Blowouts aren’t the most exciting of games, but they do provide a chance for guys further down the depth chart to get in the game and show what they could do. Friday was Prep’s senior day, and one senior reserve made the most of his opportunity late in the game.
Prep got the ball to start the third quarter and marched down the field in 12 plays. Senior running back Andrew Joppa, who entered Friday with five carries for 22 yards, ran the ball seven times on the drive for 55 yards and he capped it off with his first touchdown, a 2-yard plunge. Joppa had runs of 26 and 17 yards on the drive, and he scored the last touchdown of the regular season for the Junior Jays on Senior Night.
I’m sure that’s a memory that Joppa and his family will hold onto for some time.
Millard South and Omaha Westside both finished off 9-0 regular seasons on Friday night, and Bellevue West bounced back in a big way from its loss to Millard South to finish 8-1, outscoring its final five opponents 286-50.
Aside from those three, the projected top three seeds in the Class A playoffs, it would be hard to argue anybody is playing better football than Creighton Prep is as we head into the postseason. The Junior Jays finished 7-2 thanks to six straight wins to close out the season and pair a dominant defense with a talented run game aided by a road-graded offensive line.
Prep projects to be the No. 6 seed in the Class A playoffs, and they will face the No. 11 seed. Their opponent will be decided by a coin flip between Grand Island and… Lincoln East (6-3). If East wins the flip, they’ll be the 11 seed and get a rematch with the Junior Jays.
I saw some uncharacteristic things from East on Friday night that would lead me to think they might put up a better fight if they get another crack at Creighton Prep. East has a deep and talented group of wideouts to catch passes from their prolific quarterback, but they weren’t doing much catching on Friday. I saw numerous drops throughout the night from normally sure-handed pass-catchers. East’s biggest threat, Cooper Erikson, didn’t even crack the stat sheet until the final play of the third quarter.
If East does get a rematch, the Spartans will have to find a way to play with a much higher level of physicality, or else the Junior Jays will likely run right over them once again.
On the flip side, if Grand Island wins the coin toss and faces Prep, that means East should face off against No. 6 Gretna and its own high-power aerial attack led by quarterback Zane Flores. You can sign me up for that shootout right now.
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.