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Class A: 'He's Superman' — Westside's Payton puts on heroic effort to hoist Westside over Storm
CLASS A: OMAHA WESTSIDE 37, ELKHORN SOUTH 21

Class A: 'He's Superman' — Westside's Payton puts on heroic effort to hoist Westside over Storm

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OMAHA — The No. 9 on Cole Payton’s chest looked a lot like an “S” Friday night in the Class A state championship football game at Omaha Westside’s Phelps Field.

The 6-foot-3, 215-pound left-handed senior all-state quarterback ran through tackle after tackle for 129 yards and three touchdowns, but proved to be just as effective through the air, passing for 218 yards and two more scores to lead the No. 2 Warriors to a 37-21 win over No. 4 Elkhorn South before an estimated 3,000 spectators.

And it was one play later in the second quarter that summarized the night for the North Dakota State recruit. Somehow Payton escaped the grasp of the Storm’s Carter Richardson, who nearly had him sacked for a 10-yard loss with time quickly running out in the first half.

But Payton kept churning, got away and then rolled left to find a wide-open Koby Bretz for an 18-yard touchdown pass with 23 seconds left in the half, which gave the Warriors (12-0) a 21-14 lead they never relinquished.

“I knew Cole was going to get loose, I just needed to get open and he’d find me,” said Bretz, a Nebraska recruit whose 65-yard kickoff return after the Storm (10-2) tied the game at 14 set up the late first half score.

“Cole can do anything, he’s Superman.”

Bretz can sympathize with the Elkhorn South defenders. As a safety for the Warriors, he can attest that bringing down Payton can be a task during practice.

“He’s a dog, I definitely don’t like tackling that man,” Bretz said.

Payton later added touchdown runs of 1 yard and 37 yards on Westside’s first two possessions of the third quarter to open up a 34-14 lead and move the Warriors closer to their third state championship in school history, and their first since back-to-back crowns in 1981 and ’82.

“That’s one of the best performances I’ve ever seen,” said Westside coach Brett Froendt, who won his first state title after guiding the Warriors to a runner-up finish last season.

“Part of our plan was dropping him back and letting him run," Froendt added. “Sometimes he does it on his own. When he breaks away from tackles, that’s not by accident, you should see him train. He trains like that every day.”

For Payton, it was a much better feeling Friday night than a year ago when Bellevue West shut out Westside 35-0 in a snowstorm at Memorial Stadium in the finals.

“I was freezing that night and very disappointed,” said Payton, who completed 14 of 20 passes Friday. “I’m just so happy for this team, especially the senior class. Since the day we lost the state championship last year, this is the one we marked our calendars for. We put our heads down and got to work the day after (the state finals) and I’m so happy to see it all pay off.”

Elkhorn South quarterback Dilan Krause was 15-of-28 through the air with three TD passes — two of them to Koy Wilke in the first half from 22 and 8 yards and a fourth-quarter strike to 10 yards to Cole Ballard that produced the final score with 4:12 left.

The Storm had a 430-378 margin in total yards, but missed opportunities, like an Avante Dickerson interception for Westside in the end zone, and too much Payton was more than they could overcome.

“He’s definitely a playmaker and a one-man gang,” Elkhorn South coach Guy Rosenberg said. “They’ve got a lot of firepower and we were able to keep pace for a while, but Payton was a huge difference-maker. At key points, he was able to get away and make a play.”

OMAHA WESTSIDE 37, ELKHORN SOUTH 21

Elkhorn South --21 
Omaha Westside 14 13 3--

37 

OW--Payton 4 run (Bauerly kick)

ES--Michener 22 pass from Krause (Carsen kick)

OW--White 7 pass from Payton (Bauerly kick)

ES--Wilke 9 pass from Payton (Carsen kick)

OW--Bretz 19 pass from Payton (Bauerly kick)

OW--Payton 1 run (Bauerly kick) 

OW--Payton 37 run (kick failed)

OW--Baurely 28 FG

ES--Ballard 11 pass from Krause (Carsen kick)

 ESOW
First downs24 24 
Rushes-yards41-20838-160 
Passing yards222 218 
Passing16-31 14-20 
Fumbles-lost1-1 0-0 
Penalties-yards3-30 3-25 

INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

RUSHING--ESKrause 13-74, Ballard 17-66, Warren 8-60, Winterstein 1-6, Daly 1-1, Skradis 1-1; W, Payton 21-129, Rezac 15-34, Dickerson 2-(-3).

PASSING--ES, Krause 15-28-3, Skradis 1-2-0, Daly 0-1; W, Payton 14-20-2 222.

RECEIVING--ES, Wilke 6-83, Michener 2-37, Winterstein 2-31, Warren 3-28, Hoesing 1-24, Ballard 1-11, Daly 1-8; W, Bretz 3-78, Dickerson 5-69, Guyett 3-45, Rezac 2-19, White 1-7.

Live updates: 7 up, 7 down — Omaha Westside, Elkhorn, Pierce, Ord, Dundy Co.-Stratton, BDS and McCool Junction are champs
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High school sports reporter

Ron Powell is a longtime prep writer for the Journal Star. He covers high school football, boys basketball and track as well as state college football and Husker and professional tennis.

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