Omaha North running back Calvin Strong did his best Friday night to turn the rematch of last year's Class A final into a runaway.
The junior running back rushed for 238 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Vikings to a 38-17 win over Millard North. North captured the district title and moved to 8-1 while the defending state champion Mustangs fell to 4-5.
“This was real big payback for us,” Strong said. “We wanted this game really bad.”
The Vikings, who lost 17-14 in last year's Class A title game, had additional motivation after suffering their first loss last week against Bellevue West. Coach Larry Martin said that 35-30 setback did a lot to focus his team for Friday night's game, played in front of an estimated 4,000 at Kinnick Stadium.
“Last week was rough,” the coach said. “We didn't meet our expectations and we went back to work this week.”
That work paid off in a 31-point first half against the Mustangs, who had taken a 3-0 lead on a 33-yard field goal by Jack Thompson. But it was all Vikings the rest of the first half, and Strong led the way.
The Class A rushing leader put North ahead on an 11-yard run late in the first quarter. He then scored on his longest run of the night early in the second quarter, breaking free for an 80-yard jaunt.
Millard North gave the ball back to North on the ensuing kickoff when Avram Tynes returned it 43 yards but fumbled near midfield. Strong scored three plays later on a 53-yard scamper, though he was flagged for a taunting personal foul as he ran into the end zone.
The Vikings added two more scores late in the first half — a 1-yard TD run by JaVaughn Perkins and a 25-yard field goal by Nick Polito. After his two long runs in the period, Strong spent much of that second quarter on the bench with an upset stomach.
“I've got a little touch of the flu,” he said. “I got sick on the sideline, but I felt better after that.”
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The Mustangs tried to make a game of it in the third quarter, scoring a pair of touchdowns to pull within 31-17. Quarterback Clay Fisher hit Adrrell Taylor with a 20-yard scoring toss and then connected with Tynes on a 61-yard TD strike.
The score stayed that way until the Vikings' final drive of the game. A 40-yard screen pass to Strong set up North's last touchdown, a punishing 9-yard run by Strong.
The 5-foot-8, 172-pounder continues to move up in the Class A record books. He became the first player to go past 2,000 yards in the regular season (2,198), moved into second on the single-season touchdown list (33, one behind first-place Danny Woodhead of North Platte) and advanced to fourth on the single-season rushing chart (157 yards behind leader John McCardle of Millard North).
But Strong preferred to focus on what's ahead for the Vikings — namely, a spot in the playoffs.
“Everybody is going to be 0-0 heading into that,” he said. “This was exciting tonight, but it's time to move on.”
Strong's performance overshadowed a solid game by Millard North running back Grant DeVries, who rushed 30 times for 148 yards. The Vikings' defense shut down Fisher, who was held to 34 rush yards — far below his 203-yard average.
The setback brought an end to the Mustangs' three-game win streak — all over ranked opponents. Millard North entered Friday night's game rated third while the Vikings were fifth.
“This is the way we wanted to go into the playoffs,” Martin said. “With a great win over a quality opponent.”
Millard North (4-5) ......... 3 0 14 0—17
Omaha North (8-1) ........ 7 24 0 7—38
MN: FG 33 Jack Thompson
ON: Calvin Strong 11 run (Nick Polito kick)
ON: Strong 80 run (Polito kick)
ON: Strong 53 run (Polito kick)
ON: JaVaughn Perkins 1 run (Polito kick)
ON: FG 25 Polito
MN: Adrrell Taylor 20 pass from Fisher (Thompson kick)
MN: Avram Tynes 61 pass from Fisher (Thompson kick)
ON: Strong 9 run (Polito kick)
Rushing: MN, Grant DeVries 30-148, Clay Fisher 21-34, Adrrell Taylor 1-6, Jacob Matthew 1-0. ON, Calvin Strong 24-238, Tavion Seals 4-10, JaVaughn Perkins 4-60, Jacob Martin 2-5, Payton Nelson 5-11.
Passing: MN, Fisher 3-6-0 101. ON, Nelson 2-4-1 62.
Receiving: MN, Taylor 1-20, Avram Tynes 2-81. ON, Strong 1-40, Marquise Lewis 1-22.