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STATE FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS

Class A: Westside's Alvano raises his star status, Benning leaves mark in return

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Omaha Westside’s Tristan Alvano (center) celebrates with his teammates after he scored the winning field goal to defeat Gretna in the Class A title game at Memorial Stadium on Monday.

Omaha Westside football coach Paul Limongi thinks senior Tristan Alvano is the best high school kicker in the nation.

Alvano certainly made his case for that distinction in the Warriors' 43-41 win over Gretna in the Class A state championship game Monday night at Memorial Stadium.

Alvano drilled five field goals, including three in the fourth quarter — the last one a game-winning 45-yarder as time expired to secure the Warriors' second state title in three years.

His first four came from 44 and 50 yards in the second quarter and 26 and 42 yards earlier in the final period. His 50-yarder probably would've been good from 60 considering how easily it cleared the crossbar.

Even with the game on the line, nerves were never an issue. He thought if Westside could get as close as the Gretna 40-yard line, he could hit the game-winner. Westside got the ball to the 27.

"My mind was just set on one thing and that was to kick that ball through the uprights," said Alvano, who finished the season with 16 field goals and 70-for-70 accuracy on extra points.

"I trusted everyone on my unit and they did their job," added the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Alvano, who tweeted Tuesday morning that he's received a full scholarship offer from Nebraska. He's also being recruited by Oklahoma, Iowa, Arkansas and Iowa State. Before the kick, his teammates "said they trusted me and they love me. I told them 'I love them too, I'll do this.'''

Alvano has accomplished a lot in high school with his right foot, but he ended his career with his first game-winner.

"You don't get a lot of opportunities like that," Alvano said. "You're on your own at practice and you're sometimes forgotten about. The fact that everyone relied on me in this situation means the world to me. I'm honored and humbled to have that experience."

When Limongi made the move from Omaha Burke to Westside last spring for his first season as the Warriors' coach, he noticed right away he had a difference-maker at kicker.

"We're thrilled to have someone like Tristan in our back pocket. He definitely changes how you approach things offensively,'' said Limongi, who guided Burke to the 2018 state title. "His kicking coach is a sports psychologist. So he deals with pressure every day in practice. He worked two hours every day, he was there as long as we were, playing games, being put in situations, battling and competing."

While Alvano has been there all season for Westside, the Warriors welcomed back junior standout wide receiver and defensive back Caleb Benning for his first game since Week 3 when he broke his collar bone. Benning had 14 receptions for 103 yards on offense and came through with a pair of first-quarter interceptions on defense which led to 10 points.

"Caleb is like having two all-state players back because he's so unbelievable on both sides of the ball," Limongi said of the 6-0, 188-pound Benning, who has offers from Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Iowa State and Vanderbilt.

"We knew we'd have to play in his game (the state title game) to get him back, and it was a testament to him and his dad (former Husker running back Damon Benning) that he came back ready to play like this. He stayed active, he stayed in shape and he was ready tonight."

Caleb Benning admitted he was a little apprehensive early in the game, "but after that first play and that first hit, it felt like something I've been doing my whole life," he said.

He credited his two interceptions to the scouting report. "They (Gretna) don't have a lot of concepts, but they're very, very good at what they do," Caleb Benning said. "We had a great week of preparations and that really helped me be in a position to make those plays."

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