At times, it felt like defense was optional. But one big defensive play helped preserve the win for Omaha North over previously-undefeated Bellevue West.
With 56 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, and Omaha North leading by three, Aveon Barnes blitzed from his outside linebacker spot and brought down Bellevue West quarterback Evan Kieser for a fourth-down sack.
It was a rarity in a game that saw the two teams combine for 958 yards of total offense and 101 points.
On the game’s opening possession, Bellevue West marched to the North 39-yard line. From there, running back Jeyvon Ducker, lined up in the wildcat formation, hit Zavier Betts with a touchdown pass. A two-point conversion followed to make it 8-0.
North answered immediately on the ensuing drive, with Treon Fairgood-Jones scoring from 20 yards out.
Kieser extended the lead when he hit Shane Dailey, Jr on a 64-yard pass. The two-pointer was again good to make it 16-7.
But North had an answer, as they did all night. Viking quarterback Houston Fogelstrom hit Bryant Wesson for a 42-yard score and it was 16-14 at the first break.
After Bellevue West had a touchdown called back because of an ineligible man downfield, they came up short on fourth down at the North 12-yard line. Zander Gray’s 23-yard touchdown run capped the ensuing possession for North and gave the Vikings their first lead of the night at 21-16.
Ducker scored for Bellevue West with 7:06 remaining in the half, but the two-point conversion failed. North’s Jared Venner kicked an all-important 39-yard field goal with 24 seconds left in the second quarter to give the Vikings a 24-22 advantage at the half.
The third quarter was easily the wildest in an already wide-open game. Each team scored three touchdowns in the third frame. For Bellevue West, Kieser connected with Betts again, this time from 24 yards out, following a North fumble to open the half. Ducker scored from 6 yards out, but Kieser suffered a leg injury on the two-point try.
The situation looked dire for Bellevue West, who had already lost a starting quarterback to an ankle dislocation in the second game of the season. But, junior Evan Cleveland stepped in and launched a 48-yard bomb to Betts for the third Thunderbird touchdown of the frame.
North answered every score with one of their own. Gray scored on runs of 21 and 51, while Fogelstrom capped the quarter with his second scoring hook-up to Wesson. North led 45-41 heading to the fourth. Gray would finish the game with 233 yards rushing on 28 carries.
After a Bellevue West turnover, Fogelstrom went to work again, hitting Wesson for the pair’s third score of the night, this one from 68-yards out. With 11:57 still remaining in the fourth quarter, North extended the lead to 52-41.
Ducker went in from 27 yards out with 9:11 remaining. Kieser had returned to the game and made good on the ground for two. Trailing by just three points, there looked to be time left for Bellevue West.
Following a big defensive stand, North lined up to punt with Keagan Johnson back to receive for the Thunderbirds. Johnson fielded the bouncing ball but was hit immediately and fumbled, giving the ball back to the North offense.
The Vikings couldn’t manage a first down and lined up to punt again. Venner delivered, pinning Bellevue West at its own four-yard line with under three minutes to play.
The 96 yards ahead proved to be too much to overcome, despite the benefit of two pass interference calls against North that kept the drive alive. The two teams combined for 30 penalties for 270 yards in the game.
Ultimately, the blitz by Barnes spelled the end of Bellevue West’s undefeated 2018 season. The Thunderbirds fall to 7-1, likely ending a bid for the top seed in the upcoming playoffs.
North improves to 5-3, having won four straight.
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