WAVERLY – The first round of the state playoffs ended in a big win for the Waverly Viking football team as they stormed to a 49-20 win over the Omaha Gross Catholic Cougars at home Friday night.
If you wanted to reminisce about a record-setting Waverly football regular season, the Vikings gave you your chance.
The Vikings’ first-round win looked eerily similar on paper to their week six, Oct. 4 win over the Cougars during the regular season.
Both included several Evan Canoyer touchdowns. Zane Schawang was once again the leading rusher. The Cougars, after a second time around, have to be tired of the Vikings’ rushing attack as Waverly racked up 300-plus yards of rushing again.
It was what most expected but in high school football that is never a given. Head Coach Reed Manstedt said he was pleased with how his team came out of the gate and took the momentum early.
“We challenged them to come out fast tonight,” Manstedt said after the game. “We got up 21-0 in the first quarter and I thought that was really important in a game like this. Against a team like this, that you know is going to give their best shot early in the game, if you kind of cut it up on them fast, they might go away.”
Waverly started their opening drive at their own 39-yard line and drove down to the Gross 12-yard line, helped along by two Cougar offside penalties, where junior running back Canoyer would find the end zone.
It would be the first of Canoyer’s four touchdowns for the night and first of two in the first quarter alone. The ensuing kickoff would add insult to injury for the Cougars. The Vikings would pounce on a Cougars mistake and take over with the ball on the Gross 29-yard line. Senior quarterback Mason Nieman would take the Vikings down to the 8-yard line and three plays and just over a minute later Canoyer would find pay dirt again.
A Gross three-and-out gave the Vikings the ball back. After a holding penalty on second down looked poised to stall the Viking drive, Nieman found senior receiver Noah Stoddard who then turned a Gross defensive back inside out and ran down the sideline for a 38-yard gain and a first down.
This time the scoring would be left to senior running back Ethan Kastens who pounded the center of the Gross defense for a seven-yard touchdown to make it 21-0 with 1:30 left in the first quarter.
The Vikings dynamic offense has been led by the seemingly endless stream of speed and power coming from the Waverly backfield and Manstedt said that the success all year long has come from their ability to change it up.
“The great thing is, by being able to distribute the car-
ries between them (Canoyer, Schawang, Kastens and Nieman), you’re not just relying on one guy and get one guy beat up,” Manstedt said. “It’s a chore making sure they all get their touches because they deserve them. They each of them deserve to get the ball.”
The Viking defense was the story of the second quarter. The Waverly defense led by sophomore defensive lineman Trevor Brown and senior linebackers Barrett Skrobecky and Treyton Kozal and defensive back Haven Piening kept the Cougars out of the end zone in the first half.
“Trevor, he sure doesn’t look like a sophomore nor does he play like one,” Manstedt said about his sophomore star. “He’s really taken some good coaching from our defensive line coach and really fixed some things he was doing at the start. He’s become, in my opinion, one of the best defensive linemen in the state regardless of class.”
Nieman added a 37-yard touchdown run with 3:31 left in the second quarter to make it 28-0 and that is where the score would stay until the third quarter.
The Cougars, playing shorthanded without their starting senior quarterback Jake McGregor, received the opening kickoff of the second
half but were halted quickly and were forced to punt back to the Vikings.
Schawang and Nieman featured heavily in the seven-play drive that Canoyer capped off with a seven-yard touchdown run, his third of the game.
The next Gross drive would show promise but end on downs at the Waverly 40-yard line.
The Vikings would need only two plays to get back to the end zone.
Kastens ran around the left side for a 15-yard gain followed by a bruising run by Canoyer for 45 yards and a touch to make it 42-0 and Waverly started emptying its bench.
Gross would score on its next two drives to pull within 29 but the game was never in doubt, much like first go-around between the two teams.
Junior quarterback Nolan Wiese would score a touchdown to make it 49-13 and the Cougars would add another consolation score to their total to bring the final score to 49-20.
The Vikings win sends them to the quarterfinal where they will host the Hastings Tigers, 42-7 winners over McCook in the first round.
The game is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Viking Stadium on Friday, Nov. 8.