Scorebooks will show that Omaha North officially won Friday night's state playoff quarterfinal showdown against the defending state champion on a 2-yard touchdown run by Calvin Strong in the final five seconds.
But when the Viking sophomore took a sweep pitch to the right on fourth down with the clock running, outran the defense to the edge and got in for a 33-30 win over second-ranked Lincoln Southeast, North had reached its second-ever semifinal on something much more.
The Class A No. 6 Vikings drove 79 yards in the final 74 seconds after falling behind for the first time all night — a drive capped by Strong's score one play after being stuffed on a run up the middle for no gain.
With no timeouts and the clock inside 20 seconds, senior quarterback Zach Martin called an audible.
What was supposed to be the same play that went for nothing on the previous snap turned into a pitch to Strong to the right.
“I pulled them back and I wanted to run sweep because they were all inside there and I just thought sweep would be a good play,” Martin said.
Martin delivered the ball, looked to the outside to see Strong's space and put both arms straight up in the air.
“It was one of the best feelings I've ever had in my life right there,” Martin said.
And one that Strong said he didn't really know was being run.
“I don't know what play he called at all,” the standout running back said. “It was so loud. I just reacted.”
The score was set up after Martin completed consecutive passes for 18, 10 and 47 yards to move North from its own 21 to the Southeast 4 in three snaps. The big completion, to senior wide receiver Reggie Holt, was on a perfectly thrown pass down the middle.
“I just kept telling myself to make a play, make a play,” Holt said. “I saw the ball and I knew it was mine.”
Strong took a toss to the left for two yards before North called a timeout to set up the final sequence.
Two plays later he was in the end zone for the third time on the night and Southeast's season had come to a shocking close.
“It was just a great, great high school football game,” North coach Larry Martin said.
Not a bad for your son, either, coach?
“Obviously I'm extremely proud of him,” Larry Martin said. “He knows that we're going to get back to work on Monday and develop a game plan to try to put North in a situation to have another chance to win another football game.”
It appeared that might not be the case after Southeast got the go-ahead field goal with 1:22 to play, a 40-yarder off the left foot of Lukas Gilliland for a 30-27 lead. That brought the Knights back from a 21-7 first-half deficit after North scored on its first three possessions, including a 20-play drive in the second quarter.
Southeast would score a pair of touchdowns in just over two minutes late in the half to close to within one heading to halftime.
North would push the lead to 27-20 on Strong's second touchdown of the night before Southeast tied things on Devin Washington's third score of the night with 6:17 to play and took the lead shortly thereafter.
“The kids were so resilient as far as battling back to get back into the game and then getting into position to take the lead there,” Southeast coach Ryan Gottula said. “Their effort was tremendous, we just came up a little short there at the end.”
North's only previous trip to the semifinals ended with a loss to eventual champion Millard West in 2008. Standing between the Vikings and an appearance in the state championship game is a matchup next week with Omaha Creighton Prep.
Strong finished with 213 yards and the three scores on 35 carries. He had tallied over 100 in the first quarter. His final carry of the night will be one he'll never forget, though.
“I'm just real excited,” he said. “I actually cried, man.”
Lincoln Southeast (9-2).....................7 13 0 10—30
At Omaha North (9-2)......................14 7 6 6—33
ON: Calvin Strong 22 run (Conner Phillips kick).
LSE: Devin Washington 4 run (Lukas Gilliland kick).
ON: Zach Martin 1 run (Phillips kick).
ON: Phillips 7 pass from Martin (Phillips kick).
LSE: Na-Jee Jackson 1 run (Gilliland kick).
LSE: Washington 2 run (kick blocked).
ON: Strong 1 run (kick failed).
LSE: Jackson 3 run (Gilliland kick).
LSE: Gilliland 40 FG.
ON: Strong 2 run (kick failed).
>> RUSHING: LSE, Devin Washington 23-78, Keiron Williams 2-21, Na-Jee Jackson 3-6, Trey Beamon 1-1, Devonte Madlock 1-13; ON, Calvin Strong 35-213, JaVaughn Perkins 2-9, Zach Martin 4-10, Donte Hill 3-13.
>> PASSING: LSE, Jackson 9-19-0 171; ON, Martin 15-24-0 196.
>> RECEIVING: LSE, Luke Gifford 1-68, Madlock 3-24, Desmond Robinson 5-79; ON, Walker 4-51, Conner Phillips 4-42, Marquise Lewis 2-14, Casey Sayles 2-23, Reggie Holt 3-66.
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