Max Connor's coaches told him all week he'd get his chance.
When that opportunity presented itself, the senior kicker from Omaha Gross didn't waste it.
Connor's 28-yard field goal with 11 seconds left lifted third-ranked Gross to a 9-6 victory over No. 4 Omaha Skutt in a Class B quarterfinal Friday night at Skutt's Moylan Field.
The win puts the Cougars (10-1) in the semifinals for the first time in 10 years. They'll host Elkhorn next Friday at Bryan Stadium.
“My coaches had been saying all week that I'd get my chance,” Connor said. “I was ready for it.”
It hadn't been the easiest of nights for Connor up to that point. He missed the PAT after Gross' only touchdown, then had a punt blocked that led to Skutt's only points.
“No one got on him or chewed him out,” Gross coach Tim Johnk said. “They patted him on the butt and encouraged him, and that's the brotherhood of this team. I'm so proud of him.”
Gross started its eventual winning drive on its own 40 with 3:06 remaining.
Three Anthony Vigneri runs moved the ball to the SkyHawk 35, where Gross eventually faced a fourth-and-7. The Cougars went for it and converted when Zach Johnk scrambled and found Joe Coenen across the middle for a 20-yard gain. Another Vigneri run moved the Cougars closer before Connor's field goal.
Skutt coach Matt Turman used back-to-back timeouts to ice Connor, but the kick was right down the middle.
“It didn't faze me because I knew the kick was in my range,” Connor said. “It was in the middle of the field and that was all I needed.”
Two of Class B's top defensive units yielded very little offense, and Gross was able to put together the lone sustained scoring drive of the night.
Mixing in some Wildcat formation, the Cougars marched 77 yards in nine plays. I-back Anthony Vigneri, lined up as quarterback, lofted a 13-yard pass to Nate Crnkovich for the first TD of the game with 10:40 left in the second quarter. Connor's extra-point attempt sailed wide right.
Gross maintained that lead until Skutt's special teams provided a spark in the third quarter, blocking Connor's punt and taking over at the Cougar 14.
Four plays later, Creighton Koley scored on a 3-yard option keeper, but Coenen blocked the extra point to keep the game tied with 6:13 left in the quarter.
Skutt mustered little offense against the Cougars, finishing with 99 total yards and failing to complete a pass.
“We just couldn't get much going offensively,” Turman said. “They have two strong defensive tackles and the speed to chase you down.”
Johnk advanced past the quarterfinal round for the first time in his seven years as Gross' coach, and his team gets a chance to avenge its lone defeat this season to the Antlers.
“Sometimes it takes awhile to get over the hump, and this is a step in the right direction for our program,” he said. “We've been playing great competition all season, so every week has been like a playoff game for us.”
Omaha Gross (10-1)............................0 6 0 3—9
At Omaha Skutt (9-2)............................0 0 6 0—6
OG: Nate Crnkovich 13 pass from Anthony Vigneri (kick failed)
OS: Creighton Koley 3 run (kick blocked)
OG: Max Connor 28 FG
>> Rushing: OG, Vigneri 17-78 Zach Johnk 7-32 Tyler Koraleski 6-10 Nate Zimmerer 3-24. OS, Austin Hauptman 9-47 Phillip Rasmussen 6-23 Dakota Krejci-Smith 5-17 Koley 7-16 Nick Bies 5-(minus 4).
>> Passing: OG, Johnk 10-18-1-79 Vigneri 1-1-0-13. OS, Koley 0-3-0-0 Bies 0-2-1-0.
>> Receiving: OG, Joe Coenen 4-45 Zimmerer 4-19 Zach Knicky 2-15 Crnkovich 1-13.