BENNINGTON – The Waverly Vikings used a withering ground attack to gain a first half lead and never looked back in a 34-20 win over Bennington, Friday Sept. 6.
The old adage in football is that “it’s not the X’s and O’s, it’s the Jimmies and Joes,” that win games. That is, no matter how good the game plan is, the players make the difference in the end.
But Offensive Coordinator Brian Benson and Head Coach Reed Manstedt’s game plan heading into the game with the pass-happy Badgers set the Vikings and their Niemans and Canoyers on the course for success.
The opposing offenses could not have been more contrary. Bennington had thrown 67 passes in its season opening loss to No. 1 Omaha Skutt for 416 yards through the air.
The Vikings only attempted eight passes in week one, making their gains on the ground. All four of the Vikings’ touchdowns in their season opening win over Seward came on the ground amassing 285 yards rushing.
Manstedt, who calls the defensive schemes in game, said he knew that the Vikings’ best defense would be a good offense.
Manstedt said Benson’s power spread attack kept Bennington senior quarterback Nick Bohn and his fleet of receivers on the sideline as Waverly pummeled Bennington’s defense all night.
Three Viking backs had more than 10 carries, led by senior quarterback Mason Nieman.
Nieman had 23 carries for 179 yards and two touchdowns. Not to be outdone, junior running back Evan Canoyer continued his early season success, racking up 93 yards on 19 carries and three touchdowns.
Manstedt said that ahead of the game that they felt they had the advantage on offense and that they felt the difference would be not giving up the big play on defense.
Waverly changed up its defensive scheme from the high-pressure, blitzing defense that Manstedt prefers.
“We put in a defense this week that was very unorthodox compared to what we have done in the past,” Manstedt said. “We played in a defense where we were just going to drop eight (defenders) and force everything underneath us.”
The plan worked. Throughout the first half, Bennington’s aerial assault faltered. The Badgers would get their yards, finishing the game with 377 yards on 39 completions, but ended the first half with a zero on the scoreboard.
The Vikings won the turnover battle for the second week in a row. Waverly forced two Bohn interceptions while finishing with no turnovers.
Junior Zane Schawang and senior Barrett Skrobecki each had a pick and gave the Viking offense a short field on which to work.
In the second half, things got closer but the outcome largely never in doubt.
A Bohn touchdown pass to open the second half was answered by a Canoyer touchdown run restore the Vikings three-score lead.
The Badgers would continue to fight, working the ball through the air. Six Bennington receivers would finish the game with four or more receptions, led by senior Grady Corrigan who finished with eight receptions for 86 yards and two touchdowns.
But the Badgers would never get closer than two scores as Canoyer would cap off the Viking scoring with his third touchdown of the game and second of the half.
Manstedt credited his team’s toughness for sticking out a tough road win.
“We held them scoreless in the first half. We obviously gave up 20 points in the second half, which is 20 more than we want to give but at the same time, so proud of the way our kids played,” Manstedt said. “Our boys were tired. There was close to 200 total plays of football played on Friday night. No matter how much running you do during the week, that’s hard to get conditioned for.”
With the loss, Bennington drops to 0-2 on the season, though it might be the best winless team in Class B. After losses to No. 1 Skutt and No. 5 Waverly, the Badgers reward is a week three matchup with No. 3 Norris.
Waverly climbed one spot to No. 5 in the Sept. 9 Omaha World-Herald ratings with its win after No. 4 Blair lost in week two. In week three, the Vikings will host new No. 4 Omaha Roncalli.
The Crimson Pride actually moved up a spot and stayed in front of Waverly despite losing to No. 1 Skutt last week.