When second-ranked Omaha North and No. 3 Omaha Westside square off for the Class A title at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday at Memorial Stadium, it will be a battle of teams that go about their business in very similar fashions, according to the coaches of a couple of common opponents.
Grand Island's Jeff Tomlin, whose team lost to Westside 45-13 and dropped a heartbreaker of a semifinal to North, said there's no doubt what makes both teams successful.
“They have good running backs and good guys in the skill positions,” Tomlin said, “but I think it starts up front. I think a lot of their success has to be traced there.”
North back Calvin Strong holds the Class A record for rushing yards (2,764) and rushing touchdowns (42) in a season. The junior is averaging 230 yards per game.
Give some credit to Strong, Millard North coach Fred Petito said. But don't forget about the big uglies, he added.
“They really block you up front offensively,” Petito said. “They zone you and they reach you. And if you get reached by them, you get it handed to you.”
Petito's Mustangs beat North in the state final a season ago, but dropped both meetings against the Vikings this year, including a quarterfinals matchup.
But Millard North handed Westside its only setback of the year when its quarterback ran for six touchdowns in a 42-35 win.
Both coaches used the same word when discussing Westside: solid.
“They don't beat themselves with penalties or turnovers,” Tomlin said. “They don't ever put themselves in a bad spot.”
Warriors quarterback Christian Hagan can make plays with his arm and his legs. He's thrown for nearly 2,000 yards and 21 touchdowns, eight of which have gone to Jamaal Conway-Smith, the team's leading receiver.
Hagan also plays a major role in the kicking game, acting as the team's punter and kicker. Don't forget about special teams, Tomlin said.
Defensively, Petito gives an edge to North. The Vikings held his team without a rushing touchdown in last year's championship and both 2013 games.
“They play downhill pretty good,” he said. “And they tackle well. I think they're one of the better tackling teams we've seen in several years.”
Neither coach gave a prediction, but both said they were looking forward to watching Tuesday's final.
“Going to be a good one,” Tomlin said.