The football season kicked off on Thursday for the Omaha Westside Warriors with a showdown against arch-rival Omaha Creighton Prep.
After trading blows through a scoreless first quarter, Westside took control with four touchdowns in the second period as the Warriors rolled to a 28-0 lead at halftime. Star quarterback Cole Payton, a North Dakota State commit, accounted for two of those scores—a 65-yard bomb to Minnesota commit Avante Dickerson and a 14-yard carry himself.
When the Warriors took the field for the second half, a different quarterback lined up behind center. With a commanding lead, Westside coach Brett Froendt gave junior Kolby Brown—the son of former Nebraska and NFL kicker Kris Brown—the entire second half to run the offense.
“He’s good,” Froendt said. “He can win games for us, so we want to give him some snaps. You never know what might happen to Cole plus we can use Cole in some different areas. He’s a good football player and we were happy to give him a half.”
Westside tacked on two more touchdowns in the second half for a dominant 42-0 win. Brown said he had a lot of fun, but the game didn’t look anything like a typical Prep-Westside showdown, for obvious COVID-19-related reasons.
“Normally, 5,000 people pack in whether it’s here or over at Burke,” Brown said. “It’s a great rivalry. Our coaching staff preached to us it’s going to be a little bit different this time around. There aren’t going to be student sections, it’s not going to be as loud. But we’ve got to block all that out and we have to go out and play our game.”
Despite the different feel, Brown said he was grateful for the opportunity to play, something the schools in the Omaha Public Schools district won’t get this fall.
“I woke up and I was just blessed with the opportunity to go to Westside,” Brown said. “I feel for the kids that can’t play. It’s a really unfortunate circumstance, but it’s out of our control, too. I was just happy to come out here and get a win.”
The highlight of the second half for Brown came early in the third quarter. Brown dropped back, scanned the field and took a deep shot over the top to Payton, who had lined up at tight end and was angling toward the sideline. Brown hit Payton in stride and the future Bison took it from there, sprinting the last 30 yards for the 48-yard touchdown.
— Erin Sorensen (@erinsorensen) August 28, 2020
“We’ve been talking about it for a while,” Brown said. “We’ve been repping it in practice. Little bit and eventually it came open. I got it out to him and he took it the distance.”
The score completed the hat-trick for Payton with touchdowns passing, rushing and receiving, showcasing his athleticism and versatility.
“If you’ve got two good football players, get them on the football field and let things happen,” Froendt said.
The 6-foot-2, 160-pound Brown completed four of his eight passes for 65 yards.
Payton is arguably the best quarterback in the Metro, if not the entire state, so Brown has a pretty good example to follow in his own locker room as he continues to develop as a quarterback himself.
“It’s probably the best case scenario,” Brown said. “Lefty, guy going to college for football. It’s awesome. It’s really fun. We’re good buddies and he’s taken me under his wing.”
Like his father and his uncle, Drew, Brown started out as a kicker. But fate had a different path for him at Westside.
“It kind of just happened,” Brown said. “I remember kicking my freshmen year, and then going into my sophomore year we had two kickers on varsity. I played quarterback prior to that leading up, so I just ran with it.”
Now he’s the back-up quarterback getting real snaps and is in line to take over for Payton next season. Though he didn’t follow his father’s footsteps from a position standpoint, he did grow up as a Husker fan, and as such he was thrilled to see his teammate, defensive back Koby Bretz, commit to the Huskers on Monday.
“I was so happy,” Brown said. “For him, he’s just a great guy and he deserves it. He’s a hell of an athlete and everything about him, he’s big, fast. He’s a perfect get for Nebraska.”
Westside didn’t need Bretz to do too much on defense on Thursday as the big guys up front led by Northern Illinois commit Cade Haberman controlled the line of scrimmage all night, but the future Husker did catch three passes for 27 yards. On the other side of the line of scrimmage, Nebraska target AJ Rollins spent most of the game blocking as the only pass that came his way all night went sailing way over the 6-foot-6 tight end’s head.
The Warriors came up one game short of their ultimate goal last season, falling to Bellevue West in the Class A state championship. This year, with Payton, Dickerson, Bretz and Haberman leading the way, Westside has more than enough talent to go all the way this season. As for Brown, he’ll continue to play his role as he writes his own story.
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.