Football season kicks off with a bang

Storm and the Wildcats face off in a tightly contested game


Photo by Tenley Wright

Junior Nathan Pederson avoids defenders to get his second rushing touchdown of the night. He would end up having 136 yards on the ground and three touchdowns. “I’m excited to see what our team can do,” sophomore tight end Brandt Pickrell said. “I know Thursday wasn’t the outcome we wanted, but we have a very talented team and I’m excited to see what we will do the rest of the season.”

Jonathan Willis, Striv Executive Producer

On Thursday, August 27, the Millard West Wildcats opened the season at home against the Elkhorn South Storm. The week one Class A matchup between the Storm and the Wildcats was highly anticipated and a game that no one wanted to miss. 

Both teams went into this game ranked in the top five for the Omaha World Herald Class A football rankings. Millard West finished 11-1 last year, losing in the state semifinals to Bellevue West. Elkhorn South finished 7-4, losing in the second round to Millard West. 

The Wildcats lost a lot of seniors this past year. They no longer have quarterback Tristan Gomes, cornerback Dalys Beanum, running back Ethan Valencia, and many more. Without those seniors, the Wildcats knew they would have a new challenge. The Storm however have a lot of seniors returning including three offensive lineman who have been playing since their sophomore year which makes them a very deadly team.

“I’d say that the team is feeling different than last year because there’s so much new talent that we haven’t seen yet,” senior kicker Nasser Nabulsi said. “It’s definitely been different because now we all have to adjust to each other’s playing style and we can’t just jump right in thinking we’re all going to adapt to each other.”

The first quarter started out extremely well for the Wildcats. The defense forced a three and out after three straight runs by the Storm. They got a short field and took advantage of it. Junior running back Nathan Pederson capped off the drive with a 25 yard touchdown to put the Cats up 7-0. Senior running back Zach Coleman would also get injured in the first quarter, and it is unknown when he will be back.  The score would remain the same through the first quarter.

The game moved fairly quickly throughout the second quarter. Bo Wiesler rushed for the Storm’s first touchdown of the game, but Elkhorn South kicker Carsen Crouch missed the extra point off the left crossbar and West held onto their lead. Both defenses didn’t really give an inch in the quarter. Millard West missed some opportunities with good field position, but the defense made a couple stands after the Storm looked like they were starting to move the ball. South got two opportunities for some fairly long field goals, but missed both, which allowed the Wildcats to head into halftime with a 7-6 lead. 

Elkhorn South came out of the break firing on offense. They took a long drive down the field after West went three and out. They converted a fourth down to get them in a first and goal situation. West made a stand for two plays, but the Storm ended up scoring on a four yard power touchdown by Cole Ballard. Millard West had an opportunity to kick a field goal late in the third quarter, but missed it. So, Elkhorn South led 13-7 after the third quarter. 

The fourth quarter went back and forth for the whole 12 minutes. Pederson scored early in the period for the Wildcats, juking out a defender and scoring a 47-yard touchdown to put the Cats up 14-13. Elkhorn South answered right back with a 3 play drive and a 41 yard touchdown pass from Will Skradis to wide open Akoy Wilke to put the Storm back in the lead. The first play of the drive for West would bring a lot of trouble for the Cats. Senior quarterback Jacob Jones pitched behind Pederson and the ball went into the end zone. It was recovered by the Storm to put them up 27-14 with only ten minutes left in the game. 

“After we got down, the coaches kind of just said play some football,” Nabulsi said. “They knew it would be tough, but I think they believed we had a chance to get back in it.”

With the clock getting close to expiring, the Wildcats needed to score at least 13 to tie the game. They continued to fight, and put together a nice long drive. They capped off the five minute drive with another rushing touchdown by Pederson to cut the lead to six. West needed a stop on the next drive to survive and they got it. They got the ball back with about three minutes left. They moved the ball decently well until a fourth and ten from their own 47 yard line. Millard West needed the impossible to happen, and it did. Jones dropped back and launched a 53-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Brandt Pickrell. The ball looked like it was going to be intercepted, but Pickrell made a very nice grab over two defenders and put the Wildcats up 28-27 with less than two minutes left in the game. 

“It was great for my first ever varsity catch in my first ever varsity game,” Pickrell said. “I thought it was the game winner, but unfortunately it wasn’t.”

Elkhorn South came right back with a great kickoff return and a huge third down throw from Skradis to get them inside the 10 yard line. Crouch drilled the 19 yard field goal with only 9 seconds left in the game. The Wildcats had two opportunities to try and make something happen in the waning seconds, but with no avail. The Storm won the game 30-28 in an extremely close matchup to start out the season. 

“I felt like I was on top of the world, and I was really happy to contribute to the team because I felt like I let them down in the first half with the two missed field goals,” Crouch said. “The win against Millard West felt great for the whole team, and felt like redemption from last year and we were excited that we could beat such a tough opponent so early in the year.”

Millard West starts out the year 0-1, but there were a lot of things to be excited for from the Wildcats in this game. Pederson had a breakout game with 136 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Jones had a great first start making some nice plays in big situations, and tossing that long touchdown to Pickrell. He finished the day 8/21 with 159 yards passing and one touchdown. Also, other than the three touchdown drives for the Storm, the defense played pretty well for the Wildcats.

“I liked how well our defense performed,” Nabulsi said. “Even in tough situations they played really well and kept us in the game. I’m looking forward to how our offense connects because we have some really good players and once they start clicking, it will be fun to watch.” 

Head to the Millard West Striv page to watch a replay of the game: The Wildcats travel to play Millard North in week two, and will be looking to get their first win of the season.