Wildcats look to weather the Storm

Millard West takes the next steps after a deep playoff run in 2019


Photo by Tenley Wright

The Millard West defense waits anxiously for the snap against Elkhorn South in last year’s second round matchup against the Storm. The Wildcats beat the Storm in this game 35-21. “I was really proud of how far we got as a team last year,” senior running back Zach Coleman said. “I wouldn’t trade last season for anything else.”

Jonathan Willis, Striv Executive Producer

The Wildcats have been in the playoffs 23 out of the 25 years they have been competing and have won two state championships. Millard West is 38-21 all time in the playoffs and have made the playoffs in 13 straight years. However, each year presents a new challenge, and this year is no different. 

In 2019, the Wildcats were one of the best teams in the state. They finished number two in the state with a 11-1 record behind state champion Bellevue West. On offense they scored 468 total points and only allowed 125 points. 

West lost in a heart breaker to the Thunderbirds of Bellevue West 37-30 in the State semi finals. The Cats had many great performances from seniors who have now gone on to college. Last year was a solid year for the Wildcats where they put up some of the best stats that the school has had. 

Last year went pretty well, we put ourselves in a position to play for it all and came up just a little short of a championship,” head football coach Kirk Peterson said. “Some may see it as failure, we don’t and that’s all that matters.  That’s the goal every year; put us in a position to be successful.”

In 2020, on field opponents aren’t the only hurdles the Wildcats will have to face. The growing concerns of COVID-19 have made preparations for this year more challenging than in years past. The team has had to wear masks under their helmets, and be socially distanced at all times throughout practices so far. It was different for the players, but it didn’t stop them from working hard to be in the best possible shape for the upcoming season. 

“We’ve had to do everything different this summer,” senior running back Zach Coleman said. “When we came in for workouts, we had to be separate from a bunch of team members and it has delayed a lot of what we wanted to do as well. Even though we are behind on a few things, I do think we are very well prepared for this upcoming season.” 

The Wildcats are excited to get on the field and show what they’ve been working on. Millard West will go into the season ranked fourth in Class A. They have a difficult challenge to face though, with six of their nine games being against teams ranked in the preseason top 10.

“I think if we continue to listen to the coaches and come to practice looking to work hard, we will put ourselves in a pretty good position,” senior linebacker and tight end James Conway said. “I’m excited to play one last season with the kids I grew up with before we all head in different directions in life.”

They will have their home opener against Elkhorn South on Thursday, August 27th, who they faced in the second round of the 2019 playoffs. They won that game 35-14, but with the strength of their returning seniors and solid all around play, the Storm pose a larger threat to the Cats this year.

The Wildcats then move on to play tenth ranked Millard North at Buell in week two. Their last game resulted in a 30-0 Wildcat blowout. Millard North has a history of solid playoff runs and championship appearances, so this will not be a game the Wildcats can just breeze through. 

The Battle of Q Street between Millard South and Millard West takes place on September 11th. Both West and South made it to the semi final game in last year’s playoff, and are looking to do the same, if not more, this year. 

West travels to Kearney for a week four matchup with the Bearcats. Kearney played the Wildcats all 48 minutes at Buell last year, only losing by 10. This game should be a low scoring battle, and won in the trenches. 

The Wildcats have another tough road game week five against sixth ranked Creighton Prep. These teams haven’t played each other in a few years, and it will be interesting to see how they match up. 

The second half of the schedule looks fairly easy for the Cats, except for a week seven game at Bellevue West. The Thunderbirds were the Wildcats only loss last year, and kept them from going to the state championship. All players for Millard West have circled this game ever since the schedule was released, and are looking to get back at them for the heartbreaking loss in last year’s postseason game. 

“I still to this day beat myself up about that game,” Coleman said. “I personally could have done a lot of things different. I’ve had that game in my mind ever since the schedule was released.”

Throughout the practices for the summer so far, one thing has stayed the same. That’s the love for football and wanting to play. The Wildcats are really eager to just get out on the field and start competing. 

Everyone’s excited to play, that’s what it’s all about, love of the game,” Peterson said. “Doesn’t matter who is in the stands, kids play football because that’s what they love to do. Coaches are the same; we’re all doing it because we love the game.”

It is known throughout the Millard area that Peterson always has a solid team ready to go. Players have been talking a lot about some of the things they have this year. The Wildcats always have a great defense, and that won’t change this year. They also have a dynamic running back in Coleman, and the always dangerous triple option. Conway is also a versatile threat on both offense and defense, and after making the all Nebraska team last year, he is excited to get to work. There is a lot to be excited for on this team this year. 

“I think when schools think of Millard West football, they think of a very successful program,” Conway said. “Millard West is usually a top competitor I would say.” 

Millard West will be battling two opponents this year; the opposing team and a deadly virus. If they can overcome both of those though, the Wildcats could bring a state championship back to Millard West for the first time since 2008.