Northwest defensive lineman Grady Griess had that look in his eye after Friday night’s 34-3 win over Lexington in the first round of the Class B Football Playoffs.
No smile and a look of resolve that he and his buddies — ranked fourth in Class B (Omaha World-Herald) — don’t really like the proposition of their season ending anytime soon. And after halftime, on a cool, playoff night they did what they set out to against the Minutemen.
The Vikings led just 10-3 at the break and had a little chat about the final 24 minutes.
“They are a tough team,” Griess said. “We know any playoff game is going to be a tough one. We needed to play our game — our kind of football — the way we have been in the second half. We definitely didn’t’ do that the first half.”
Northwest set the tone for the second half quickly. They used nine plays to drive 74 yards with quarterback Rans Sanders scoring from the 2, as NW ran on eight plays during the march.
“We challenged them a little bit (at halftime),” Northwest coach Kevin Stein said. “We changed a couple of little schemes, but the biggest thing is we talked about how you have to take care of business. We were in a dogfight.
“You have to know that this could be it. You have 24 minutes left.”
After, Lexington gained one first down trailing 17-3, Tyler Hagemen pirated a Kaleb Carpenter pass that set up Northwest again. This time a 7-play, 64-yard drive ended in Sam Collins’ 8-yard run and the Vikings had established full control.
The rest was left to Griess and his defensive buddies who have held eight of their 10 opponents to 20 points or less this season.
After Parker Janky added a 27-yard field goal for a 27-3 lead, Griess had a 20-yard sack of Carpenter late in the third quarter. He ended the night with three sacks for 52 yards in total losses as the Minutemen’s six second half possessions ended in an interception, four punts and a turnover on downs.
In all, Lexington mustered just 132 yards of total offense 53 snaps.
Griess said the offense and defense feed off each other when they are controlling the line of scrimmage and the football.
“It helps us in a huge way,” Griess said. “If the offense gives the ball back right away, you can get tired playing defense. Our defense wouldn’t be as good if our offense wasn’t playing like they are now.”
The Vikings balanced attacked had 232 yards rushing and 222 yards passing. Sanders was 19-for-29 and a perfect 5-for-5 in the decisive third quarter as the Vikings racked up 23 first downs. Collins had 92 yards rushing on 15 attempts.
“The first half we were a little soft and didn’t have much energy,” Stein said. “In the second half, our tempo got after them and you saw a little bit more movement from us on defense.”
The Vikings (9-1) now host a quarterfinal for the second time in three years when they face Omaha Roncalli (8-2), a 56-28 winner over Plattsmouth, next Friday night. Lexington finished the season 4-6.