Lincoln East’s dramatic upset win over Millard West last year is the highlight of Jett Janssen’s football career.
It’s also the reason why East (5-2) will likely be facing a fired up Wildcat team when the Spartans and Class A No. 2 Millard West (7-0) collide Thursday at 7 p.m. at Millard South’s Buell Stadium.
Janssen was playing left tackle on one of the most memorable plays in Class A football last season — a hook-and-ladder for a 34-yard touchdown pass on third-and-10 with 1:49 left in the game that put East ahead 14-13.
Janssen provided the block on the edge that opened up enough space for quarterback Devin Beckner to get off a short pass to Connor Riekenberg on the left side. He pitched it to Blake Ingamells, who then ran it to the end zone.
“That was a very fun play,” Janssen said. “I remember running down, I probably looked a little dumb on that play, but I wanted to get down there and celebrate with Connor and Blake.”
There was even more celebrating after that. Ingamells intercepted a Millard West pass and the Spartans scored on a 13-yard TD run on the next play to produce the final 21-13 score, wiping out a 13-0 Wildcat halftime lead.
All of which will fuel the fire of the Wildcats on Thursday night.
“We know Millard West is going to be physical upfront and we have to bring that same physicality we had last year,” said Janssen, a 6-foot-5, 250-pound offensive tackle/defensive end who has scholarship offers from Northwest Missouri State, Nebraska-Kearney and Wayne State.
“It’s going to take a whole team effort against a team that wants revenge.”
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East faces a Millard West team that’s battle-tested with wins already over No. 3 Millard South, No. 4 Omaha Burke, No. 7 Grand Island and No. 8 Kearney, as well as triumphs over a pair of ratings contenders in Millard North and Omaha North.
With Nebraska walk-on senior lineman commit Baylor Brannen (6-6, 260) leading the way, the Wildcats have one of the largest offensive and defensive fronts in the state. Their quarterback, senior Tristan Gomes, is a dual threat who completed 10 of 14 passes for 217 yards and two TDs against Grand Island.
Both scores went to senior Kaedyn Odermann, a 6-3, 195-pound Harvard wide receiver recruit who had four catches for 81 yards. The other senior wide receiver, South Dakota State recruit Dalys Beanum, hauled in six passes for 136 yards against the Islanders.
Gomes is 6-5, 195 with a football scholarship offer from Idaho, but right now he is pledged to play baseball at Cal State-Fullerton.
“Millard West doesn’t really have a weakness, they’re solid all the way around,” said East coach John Gingery, whose team has won three straight games by a combined total of 171-28 over Bellevue East, Lincoln North Star and Omaha Bryan.
“They’re big up front, they have speed on the outside, a quarterback who can hurt you running or throwing and a very aggressive defense,” he added. “It’s going to be tough.”
Gingery thought before the season that Janssen was a potential Division I college recruit. Through seven games this fall, the coach says Janssen has only reinforced that evaluation.
Janssen leads the defensive line in tackles with 43 to go with an interception and a blocked punt.
“Jett’s been great,” Gingery said. “He creates a lot of problems for an offense. He’s a tough guy to block because he’s quick getting around on the edge and he’s strong. I’m sure he’ll draw some attention Thursday night.”