By Stu Pospisil
World-Herald staff writer
Limit Millard North's chances.
If Omaha North can do that in Monday night's Class A championship game, a Metro Conference coach suggests, it could take down the undefeated Mustangs.
“(The Vikings) need to use offense as their best defense. Millard North is so explosive,'' Papillion-La Vista coach Jeff Govier said. “What Omaha North has, from their first game with Millard North, is knowing they're able to score and move the ball.
“If (Omaha North) can manage the game, if it can slow down and make it a possession game, they can win.”
Govier and Omaha Burke coach Paul Limongi were asked to analyze the matchups in the 7:15 p.m. final at Lincoln's Memorial Stadium. Govier's Monarchs lost 49-21 to the Vikings a week after falling 49-42 to Millard North. Limongi's Bulldogs edged Omaha North 15-14 but lost to the Mustangs 45-10 in the regular season and 35-23 in the playoff quarterfinals.
Omaha North and Millard North closed the regular season with a wild game that the Mustangs won 37-31. The Vikings led 7-0 and 14-7 and were in a 24-24 tie in the third quarter before the Mustangs ran off the next 10 points. Omaha North threw interceptions on consecutive possessions late in the game.
Isaac Aakre, Millard North's third-year starting quarterback, ran for three touchdowns and 262 yards on 43 carries and threw for a score. Andy Bayne, whose 14 field goals this season are a state record, made three in that game.
Calvin Strong, the Vikings' sophomore running back, picked up 116 yards and two touchdowns on only 11 carries. In the playoffs he's had back-to-back games topping 200 yards as the Vikings advanced to their first state final with wins of 33-30 over defending champion Lincoln Southeast in the quarterfinals and 38-17 over Omaha Creighton Prep in the semifinals.
“They're riding a wave of confidence,'' Limongi said.
Millard North, the two coaches said, is unlikely to stray very far from its offensive game plan.
“Based on past experience, they go in and do what they do and as effectively as possible,'' Limongi said. “They have a lot of confidence with that offense and believe they can have success with it against anybody.”
While the offense runs through Aakre, he's gotten the rest of the backfield involved. Conner Matthew is averaging 100 yards a game. Clay Fisher, Steven Price and Matt Evans all have made big gains when they take a downfield pitch from their quarterback.
Limongi said Millard North has shown that wrinkle enough that it shouldn't catch Omaha North off-guard. The main emphasis, he said, still should be on slowing Aakre.
“They need to rally to the ball and eliminate the big play, make them snap it again,'' Limongi said.
“Their strength is that they just don't turn over the ball,'' he said. “If that continues, they've been the team that comes out ahead.”
Omaha North's offensive balance can keep the Mustangs off-balance on defense. Their opponents this season have gotten more yards passing than running.
“Millard North has a great defensive line and linebacker corps,” Govier said. “They have the ability to stop the run.”
If too much attention is paid to Strong, Limongi said, Omaha North can turn to senior quarterback Zach Martin's arm. He's thrown for 1,708 yards and 22 touchdowns. Millard North, however, is responsible for two of Martin's four interceptions this season.
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