Norfolk defense comes up big in win at Omaha Central
OMAHA — If defense truly does win championships, Norfolk looked to be on the right path during most of a 17-14 win over Omaha Central at Seemann Stadium on Friday.
Norfolk’s offense gave up one of the touchdowns – an interception return by Torrence Jackson. The other was a 75-yard touchdown catch by Jackson. Both plays happened in the second quarter and kept the Panthers from ever gaining more than a 10-point lead.
Norfolk coach Tom Olson said his team “found a way to win,” led by the defense.
“We’ve had a couple of games that were close that it seemed like when an opportunity would arise, we’d find a way to miss out,” Olson said. “Tonight, they found a way to make plays. They could have folded after that long touchdown pass or that interception. We just kept playing.”
A light mist fell during much of the game, especially the second half. The ball was slick, which resulted in a lot of runs and some dropped passes during the third and fourth quarters.
Olson said he was pleased with several offensive players, including senior Connor Clayton, who had several big catches. None was bigger than with 6:40 in the game, Clayton caught a 20-yard pass from quarterback Jace Monday. The play kept Norfolk driving and helped to run more time off.
“That was a great catch by Connor down the middle. And that was a great throw. Those are the kinds of things that I thought we made the plays on tonight.”
Olson said Monday is progressing.
“He has what I call great escapability. He maybe didn’t make a lot of big plays, but he did a good job of when he gets chased out of the pocket, he can make things happen. A lot of times tonight, he saved us from having big, negative plays,” Olson said.
Another big play occurred with about 1:30 left. Central had moved the ball from its own 11 to its own 46. On fourth and two, Norfolk’s Cale Strong made a flying tackle to stop the ball carrier about a yard from the first down. Norfolk then took over on downs, assuming the victory formation to run out the clock.
“That was a huge play,” Olson said. “That’s what finished it for us.”
Strong also set up Norfolk’s second touchdown when he ran the kickoff to midfield, giving the Panthers a short field.
Omaha Central coach Jay Landstrom said penalties hurt his team, but he was pleased with the effort.
“That has been the story of our season so far,” Landstrom said. “Those penalties just kill drives.”
“You got to give credit to Norfolk’s defense. They flew around. They made the plays. I know there was at least one time I thought we were one guy away from making a touchdown, but their guy held on and they ended up making the tackle. Overall, they executed and played cleaner football.”
Similar to Norfolk, Omaha Central’s line isn’t as big as some of the Omaha and Lincoln schools.
“We’re awfully young too. We started two freshmen, two juniors and a senior. I think they have a ton of potential but you don’t get any mulligans. Give some credit to their noseguard, 74 (Conner Cowling). He’s big and he’s tough.”
Omaha Central came in averaging 24 points and giving up 36 points. Norfolk came in averaging 23 points per game and giving up 27.5 points.
The win improves Norfolk to 2-1 in district play. The Panthers host Lincoln Pius X on Thursday.
Norfolk (3-4) 3 14 0 0 — 17
Omaha Central (2-5) 0 14 0 0 — 14
NO: Connor Clayton 30 fg, 4:32.
OC: Torrence Jackson 70 interception return, (Sam Levy PAT kick), 11:02.
NO: Gage Dohren 25 pass from Jace Monday, (Connor Clayton PAT kick), 8:42.
NO: Jace Monday 1 run, (Connor Clayton PAT kick), 2:39.
OC: Torrence Jackson 75 pass from Abraham Hoskins III (Sam Levy PAT kick), 1:04.