Millard West’s backfield trio ran for a total of 329 yards and put up 28 points on Westside’s state-leading defense. The Warriors had not given up more than 21 points all season and averaged just 6.4 points allowed before the 28-21 loss to Millard West.
On the game’s opening possession, Millard West set the tone for the game. The Wildcats pounded the ground all the way to the Westside 37 after starting on their own 20-yard line. From there, on the 13th play of the drive, quarterback Tristan Gomes hit Jackson Hazen for a touchdown. Millard West used more than half of the first quarter in reaching the end zone.
But, with 2:13 remaining in the opening quarter, Westside answered. Cole Payton zipped the slant pass to Grant Tagge who outran the Wildcat secondary for a 41-yard score.
The opening frame ended with the two teams tied at seven.
In the second quarter, the turnover bug bit both teams hard. After driving to the Millard West 26, Payton floated a pass to the flat that Wildcat defensive back Trey Wilbeck stepped in front of and returned inside the Westside 30-yard line.
Just 3 plays later, Westside safety Kobe Bretz snagged a Gomes pass near the goal line and returned it out to the 45.
Westside moved the ball 28 yards on the next two plays, finding themselves in scoring position once again. But just as before, Payton was picked off. This time it was Gabe Anderson with the interception to deny Westside points.
Neither team scored in the second and the score remained 7-7 at the break.
In the second half, the Millard West run game took control of the game. Jackson Wright scored on runs of 3 and 9 yards to give the Wildcats 21 points heading to the fourth quarter. Wright finished with 90 yards on 15 carries and would add one more touchdown in the fourth quarter. He was only outpaced by his backfield mate Dan Sullivan.
Sullivan entered the game with 28 carries for 160 yards on the season. His output more than doubled after the state quarterfinal game. With 199 yards on 23 carries, Sullivan was the choice for standout performer. It must be considered on of the more unlikely performances in Class A playoff history.
Westside answered with a score in the third quarter; a 25-yard strike from Payton to super sophomore Avante Dickerson. Heading to the final quarter, Millard West led 21-14.
Wright’s third rushing score came with just 2:15 left in the game, but not before controversy struck. On a first down pass, Gomes under threw his intended receiver, Dalys Beanum. Westside corner Tyson Guzman looked to be in position, providing tight coverage to Beanum, with an opportunity for the interception. Replay showed that Beanum came back through the defender to make a play on the ball. The call on the field, however, was defensive pass interference. The 15-yard penalty moved Millard West into Westside territory and set up the eventual game-winning touchdown.
Westside fought back, scoring just one minute after falling behind 28-14, on a 34-yard scramble by Payton. The onside kick following the touchdown was unsuccessful and Millard West ran out the clock to preserve the seven-point win.
Millard West (9-2) moves on to a semifinal showdown with top-ranked and undefeated Omaha Burke. The two met earlier in the year on GameTime, a meeting won 31-14 by Burke.
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