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Elkhorn South's David vs. Goliath Moment: The Blueprint for a Nebraska State Championship Miracle

In the crucible of Nebraska high school football, the upcoming Class A state championship game between the (3) Elkhorn South Storm and (1) Omaha Westside Warriors isn't just a match; it's a litmus test of courage against a colossus. Westside, a behemoth with an unblemished 12-0 record and an average scoring margin that screams dominance, faces a resilient Elkhorn South, riding on a wave of underdog spirit and strategic brilliance. The Warriors, having blown out nearly every team they've faced this season, are on a quest for their third championship in four years, including a potential back-to-back title, a testament to their dominance further highlighted by their fifth consecutive appearance in the state championship game. The highly anticipated Memorial Stadium showdown is set for Tuesday, November 21, at 7:15 p.m.

So, what can the Storm possibly do to pull off a state championship miracle? Fresh off their surprising semifinal victory over Millard South, Elkhorn South needs to replicate the challenge the Patriots posed to Westside, but with greater finesse and intensity. They must elevate their game even further, doing what Millard South did against the Warriors, except better, and then some.

Weakening Westside

  1. Aerial Vulnerabilities: Despite Anthony Rezac's impressive 2072 passing yards this season, the Millard South game (their closest game of the season) exposed potential weaknesses. His completion rate in that game was a mere 60%, compared to a season average of 72.5%. Elkhorn South’s defense, with 19 interceptions this season, must minimize Rezac’s passing game.

  2. Stifling the Rush: The Warriors' running game, spearheaded by Jahmez Ross (1399 yards, 20 TDs), faced resistance against Millard South, as his yard-per-carry dipped below his usual average. Elkhorn South’s defense must emulate this approach, throwing off Westside's rhythm.

  3. Rare Turnovers: Opportunistic play can change the game's complexion. A Warrior fumble against Millard South gave the Patriots a chance, and Elkhorn South needs to pounce on every chance they can get.

  4. Discipline as a Weapon: Westside’s seven penalties for 70 yards in their closest game indicate moments of vulnerability. Elkhorn South absolutely needs to be more disciplined than the Warriors.

Elkhorn South’s Roadmap to Victory

  1. The Madden Riggs Factor: Stepping up as quarterback following Carson Rauner’s season-ending injury, Madden Riggs has been a beacon of efficiency (101.7 QB rate). His calm and accuracy are vital against Westside's defense.

  2. Unleashing Brady Bousquet: Elkhorn South's star rusher, Brady Bousquet, with his 1222 yards and 20 touchdowns, is key to breaking down Westside's defensive front. An explosive early run from Brady Bousquet could set a dynamic tone for the Storm, energizing their offense from the start.

  3. A Defensive Wall: Elkhorn South's defense, with its reputation for creating game-changing plays, faces a critical task. To tilt the odds in their favor, they must focus on disrupting Westside's rhythm, particularly by forcing them into risky long-yardage situations. This strategic shift is essential, given Westside's demonstrated efficiency in managing short-yardage plays, a key component of their undefeated season. By effectively increasing the distance on down conversions, Elkhorn South can stifle Westside's dynamic offense and gain crucial momentum.

  4. Seizing Moments: In high-stakes games like this, capitalizing on every opportunity becomes crucial. Whether it's exploiting a rare Westside error, a gap in their defense, or creating a momentum-shifting play on special teams or a pivotal turnover, Elkhorn South must be ready to seize these moments. Every chance, big or small, could be the key to unlocking a state championship upset.

  5. Avoiding Disaster, Then Playing the Best Half of Their Lives: For Elkhorn South, it's crucial to avoid falling behind significantly early in the game. Keeping the score close in the first half is vital to prevent a running clock situation, which could severely hinder their chances. The Storm must then bring their best performance in the second half, particularly in the third and fourth quarters. This strategy aligns with how Millard South managed to stay competitive, matching Westside's score in the third quarter and preventing the Warriors from establishing their usual second-half dominance.

The Match-Up Awaits

The stage is set for a classic showdown - Elkhorn South, the resilient underdogs, against the formidable Westside Warriors. It’s a story of passion, strategy, and the relentless pursuit of glory. This championship game is more than a contest; it’s a testament to the power of belief against the odds. As the saga unfolds, one thing is certain: the heart of a champion beats in both teams. The question remains, whose heart will beat the loudest?


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