No. 4 Millard West led from the first play of the game, an 80-yard touchdown pass to Skyler Monaghan, but needed junior Ben Stodola's interception with 13 seconds left Thursday night to preserve a 24-21 win over No. 3 Omaha Creighton Prep.
The Junior Jays, who trailed 24-7 at halftime of Millard West's homecoming game, held the Wildcats to one first down in the second half but didn't catch fire until they were playing for a fallen teammate.
Prep senior tight end Alex Duncan was taken to Creighton University Medical Center's trauma unit as a precautionary measure after getting injured early in the fourth quarter. Prep coach Chris Nizzi said Duncan is expected to be OK.
The televised game at Buell Stadium was delayed 35 minutes while Duncan was being treated.
The Junior Jays finished off the drive with Easton Stick throwing to Micah Rensch for a 23-yard touchdown with 7:21 left in the game.
They forced a three-and-out, then went 73 yards in nine plays. James Scott caught a 16-yard pass to convert a fourth-and-3 before Stick ran in from the 7 with 3:27 left.
Prep (5-2) got the ball back with 1:51 left at its 15 after a failed Millard West gimmick play — a double-handoff back to quarterback Ross Drwal for a pass he overthrew.
Prep converted on third-and-1 and fourth-and-8 for a pair of first downs, but got only to its 37 before Stodola's diving grab in front of the Millard West bench.
“We played great in the first half,'' Millard West coach Kirk Peterson said. “We were playing really good defense, thought we were in good shape and held them scoreless when they had the wind in the third quarter.”
Peterson said he kept urging his players after the long injury delay to “finish the game,” but it was hard to bounce back.
Duncan, a 6-foot-4, 225-pounder, had knocked helmets with a Millard West defender on the play before he made an 8-yard catch on the sideline and again had helmet-to-helmet contact, though seemingly not as severe.
Nizzi said Duncan's health became the primary focus for the Junior Jays, but he saw how they rallied in his absence.
“Alex is going to be fine,'' the coach said. “That's all that's important right now.''
Slow starts have hindered Prep several times this season, he said, and Thursday was no exception.
Drwal opened the game with a play-action deep ball into the wind to Monaghan, who ran through RJ Urzendowski's arm tackle inside the Prep 20 to complete the 80-yarder.
Peterson said offensive coordinator Seth Turman told him that was the play he intended to use to open the game.
“He had it all figured out,'' Peterson said. “I tried to talk him out of it because of the wind.”
Monaghan, who had only three more catches for a net of 18 yards after ripping Prep last year for a Class A-record 282 yards, caught his second touchdown pass of the quarter on a ball that Drwal lofted to him in the middle of the Prep defense for a 14-yard touchdown.
After Rensch finished off Prep's only sustained drive of the half with a 3-yard touchdown run, Millard West (6-1) finished off the half with a 2-yard run from Drwal and a 48-yard field goal from Danny Sandoz.
Before Drwal's touchdown, Millard West had been inside the Prep 1 but was called for a false start on fourth down. Sandoz then made a 22-yard field goal, but Prep was called for a personal foul for going over the top of long snapper Harrison Phillips, the Wildcats' Stanford-bound lineman.
The Wildcats took the three points off the board and Drwal scored two plays later.
Omaha Creighton Prep (5-2) ............................ 0 7 0 14—21
At Millard West (6-1) ............................ 14 10 0 0—24
MW: Skyler Monaghan 80 pass from Ross Drwal (Danny Sandoz kick)
MW: Monaghan 14 pass from Drwal (Sandoz kick)
P: Micah Rensch 3 run (Peter Monahan kick)
MW: Drwal 2 run (Sandoz kick)
MW: FG Sandoz 48
P: Rensch 23 pass from Easton Stick (Monahan kick)
P: Stick 7 run (Monahan kick)
A: 3,000 (est.)
RUSHING: P, Rensch 17-74, Stick 17-34. MW, Drwal 10-11, Thomas Russell 6-16, Victor Beanum 5-18, Monaghan 2-23, Sal Guido 5-15.
PASSING: P, Stick 16-32-1 178. MW, Drwal 6-14-0 110, Zack Johnson 2-2-0 39.
RECEIVING: P, RJ Urzendowski 8-88, James Scott 6-49, Trystn Ducker 1-6, Alex Duncan 1-11, Rensch 1-23. MW, Monaghan 4-98, Bryce Darner 1-8, Nick Lawson 1-8, Drwal 1-28, Guido 1-7.
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Video: Highlights from the game