OMAHA — After letting a previous attempt to put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter slide, Lincoln High capitalized on its second chance to extend its lead to double digits and clinched a season-opening 24-19 win against Omaha Northwest on Friday.
“I had butterflies in my stomach,” quarterback Payton Helmstadter said concerning the Links’ last scoring drive with less than four minutes remaining. “(I) just knew we had to put it away.”
The Links took a 17-13 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter after Helmstadter scored from 1 yard on third-and-goal.
Northwest's answer was immediately thwarted. Lincoln High junior linebacker Jaden Jilg-Brown broke up an option pitch in Northwest territory and recovered the fumble at the Huskies’ 21-yard line.
After gaining 9 yards on the first three downs, Lincoln High coach Mark Macke called an aggressive play on fourth-and-1. However, the Northwest defense held its ground and made a stop behind the line of scrimmage.
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“We felt it was the right decision and we just didn’t get it,” Macke said.
With momentum on its side, Northwest capitalized on the first play, as senior Nigel Phillips ran 40 yards into Lincoln High territory.
Just as the Links’ previous drive had ended, Northwest faced fourth-and-short in Links territory. The Lincoln High defense came up with a big stop and took over on downs.
Given a second chance, Helmstadter orchestrated a methodical 77-yard drive that ended with junior Yohanna Shokai's 21-yard touchdown run with 3:43 remaining.
Trailing by 11 points, Northwest didn’t go quietly. With just less than two minutes left, quarterback K-Anthony Fletcher heaved a pass 32 yards to Stacy Keely, who jumped and snagged his third touchdown catch of the game.
“Their quarterback was accurate and they have some athletic, tall receivers,” Macke said.
The Huskies failed to recover the onside kick and the Links ran out the clock.