>> Video Below: See Omaha North-Creighton Prep game and fan highlights
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Omaha North soaked it all in, especially its water-drenched coach.
The Vikings are in the Class A football championship game for the first time.
A 38-17 semifinal victory Friday night over Omaha Creighton Prep was fueled by three touchdowns and 235 yards by sophomore running back Calvin Strong and two touchdown passes from Zach Martin to Conner Phillips.
Coach Larry Martin got a victory dousing and North players whooped it up on the Burke Stadium turf in front of their fans in an estimated crowd of 4,500.
“We proved a lot of people wrong about us,” said senior Casey Sayles, the Ohio recruit.
No. 6 North (10-2) can complete a playoff trifecta of wins against traditional Class A powers in the state final on Nov. 19 against undefeated Millard North, which beat the Vikings 37-31 to close the regular season.
Friday's finish against No. 7 Prep, a school that hadn't lost to the Vikings since 1967, was vastly anticlimactic compared to the last-minute victory the previous week against defending champion Lincoln Southeast.
The Vikings' defense held Prep to 10 points — an opening-drive touchdown and a second-quarter field goal. The other touchdown for the Junior Jays was a 79-yard interception return later in the second period that gave them the lead for the final time.
Prep went scoreless in the second half. It missed a 44-yard field goal, then was stopped out of punt formation deep in its territory early in the final quarter after falling behind by two touchdowns.
North held on downs at its 2 to protect the final score and state champion wrestler JaVaughn Perkins provided one more hurrah for the defense with a pickoff and return to midfield as time ran out.
“What a great night,” coach Martin said. “I'm just so happy for our kids, our community and our school. It's big for OPS to get somebody back into the finals and represent the district again.”
North, which lost to Millard West in its only other semifinal in 2009, follows Omaha Burke as a finalist from the Omaha Public Schools. The only state playoff champions from OPS have been Omaha Central in 1984 and 2007.
Strong, who celebrated with a couple of backflips, said he was a little tired from his workload. On the third-quarter scoring drive that gave North some breathing room, he picked up the final 73 of the 80 yards on 10 consecutive carries.
“They're great up front,” Prep coach Chris Nizzi said. “The best part of their game is their line, Strong and (Zach) Martin.
“Strong is really good. He's tough to tackle and we started to overrun with our pursuit and he cut back on us.”
Prep quarterback Easton Stick directed a 62-yard opening drive that he ended with a 1-yard run. It took North only one play to match it — a post pattern to Phillips for an 80-yard touchdown.
Prep kicker Nick Krone was wide on a 44-yard field-goal attempt before Strong ran for his first 49 yards and the touchdown on North's next possession.
Krone's 36-yarder with 7:01 left in the second quarter made it 14-10. Michael Emodi then engineered a 14-point swing for the Junior Jays (8-4) by picking off a screen pass and returning it 79 yards for a touchdown with 2:18 left in the half.
North came back to score in only four plays. Martin had a pass dropped on first down, then Strong broke loose for his night's long gain of 39 yards to the Prep 43. After another incompletion, Martin threw to Phillips at the Prep 22, where the receiver shed a defender and went down the Prep sideline to score.
A first-down fumble by Prep at its 26 let North tack on another three points with Phillips' 38-yard field goal.
Martin was 7 of 13 for 146 yards. Stick was 11 of 21 for 166 yards, but only hooked up three times with leading receiver RJ Urzendowski for 37 yards.
Omaha North (10-2) ............................ 14 10 7 7—38
Omaha Creighton Prep (8-4) ................. 7 10 0 0—17
P: Easton Stick 1 run (Nick Krone kick)
N: Conner Phillips 80 pass from Zach Martin (Phillips kick)
N: Calvin Strong 4 run (Phillips kick)
P: FG Krone 36
P: Michael Emodi 79 interception return (Krone kick)
N: Phillips 43 pass from Martin (Phillips kick)
N: FG Phillips 38
N: Strong 4 run (Phillips kick)
N: Strong 10 run (Phillips kick)
A: 4,500 (est.)
RUSHING: N, Strong 34-235, Donte Hill 10-35, Martin 3-20. P, Stick 9-54, Doug Tsoka 19-88, Tre Graves 2-1.
PASSING: N, Martin 7-13-1 146. P, Stick 11-21-1 166.
RECEIVING: N, Phillips 4-147, Strong 1-minus 1, Reggie Holt 1-3, Marquise Lewis 1-minus 3. P, Kirk Kudlacz 3-39, RJ Urzendowski 3-37, James Scott 2-30, Alex Duncan 3-60.
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