Photo Credit: John S. Peterson.

Gretna’s Defense Becomes Star of Recruit Showdown Against Lincoln East

October 22, 2022

The Lincoln East offense took the field, pushed back to the doorstep of its own end zone and in need of a score.

East’s defensive game plan frustrated defending champion Gretna throughout Friday night’s regular-season finale. Each new stop brought more belief in an upset from the visitors. So the Spartans offense tried to drum some explosiveness midway through the fourth quarter of a two-possession game.

Quarterback Owen Laessing scrambled in the end zone while looking downfield. He fired off a desperation heave mid-tackle to avoid a safety. The ball made it to the line of scrimmage where Gretna’s Korver Demma waited. The future Husker muscled his way 3 yards into the end zone to secure a 28-6 win.

“Defense did a great job holding them to 6 points,” Gretna quarterback Zane Flores said. “The offense, we couldn’t get things going. So they picked us up and it was huge.”

A potent Dragons offense full of talent needed its defense to secure the win.

Frustrated stars

The game’s two biggest recruits ––Gretna’s Zane Flores (Oklahoma State) and East’s Malachi Coleman (decision coming tonight)––were the centerpiece of defensive schemes and thus limited in their output on Friday night.

Flores put Gretna up first after initial drives went nowhere. The senior quarterback engineered a 72-yard drive that ended with a trademark Flores touchdown throw. A designed rollout to the right with a rolling pocket, Flores gave a slight pump fake to send an East lineman leaping and bought himself time. He stayed in bounds and behind the line of scrimmage before firing for the corner of the end zone where Caleb Schnell waited.

Senior receiver Tyson Boganowski got into the mix with a jumping catch in traffic for a short touchdown catch in the second quarter. That was another case of East shutting down Flores’ initial read and the senior extending the play long enough to find an opening. The two connected on a quick-hit touchdown throw in the fourth quarter, spurred by a deep haul from Flores to Blayke Moore, to give the Dragons some sort of cushion.

“We were looking on the sideline, we knew we could get a few of those deep balls,” Flores said. “The offense wasn’t playing that well right away but Blayke stepped up on some of those deep balls. He had some amazing catches so that was huge for us.”

Meanwhile, Gretna’s defense cut the game down to 9 players against 10. The Dragons threw a litany of bodies — Moore, Boganowksi, Mason Gunn and Michael Scheef — at Coleman. They schemed a corner back squared up to the quarterback and a safety 15 yards over the top to double-cover the 4-star athlete. Triple coverage if you count the sidelines as an additional defender. Coleman’s only catch went for 7 yards on East’s final desperation drive. The explosive receiver’s slant route took him into the heart of the defense and the Dragons didn’t let him turn it into more. Coleman showcased his physicality in the run game and on swing passes, delivering big blocks for the Spartans.

Standout watch

Mason Goldman, who received a scholarship offer from Nebraska earlier this month, anchored both Gretna lines. One of his standout plays involved getting into the backfield for a sack that caused a fumble on a crucial second down. His snaps at tackle on offense gave Flores enough time to scan the East defense.

Gretna’s Demma came up huge on defense again. He tallied several tackles, tracing and chasing each play from his spot on the edge. His most noteworthy contribution, however, was staying home at the edge and intercepting a throw in the fourth quarter. The committed preferred walk-on at Nebraska took that interception and muscled through linemen to turn it into a touchdown.

Lincoln East junior Dash Bauman hasn’t rocketed up the national recruiting charts but he put in another strong performance against a tough defense. Bauman’s tough running helped East move chains and draw attention away from the pass game. His play at linebacker also impressed and helped East stay in the game until the final drive. East never did score a touchdown, relying on two Admir Mujkic field goals.

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