Championship teams are formed well before the final whistle is blown.
For Gretna wide receiver Joe Roll, it’s been in the making since he was a little kid — More specifically, when he was in fourth grade playing catch with Zane Flores, the Dragons star quarterback who will soon have college coaches around the country dazzled.
The connection between the two juniors showed Tuesday night in Gretna’s 7-3 win over Omaha Westside in the Class A state football final at Memorial Stadium.
After Gretna’s run game failed to materialize, the Dragons homed in on the passing game, where Flores thrived, going 28-for-42 for 320 yards.
As for Roll, he saved his best performance of the season for last, accumulating a career-high 207 yards on 11 catches. That’s good for nearly one-third of his season total going into the final. But as effective as he was all night long against a relentless group of Warrior defensive backs, Roll was quick to praise his childhood friend.
“I just have to give it all to my lineman and Zane (Flores) because they’re the only reason I’m able to do what I’m able to do,” Roll said.
Flores was equally as quick to compliment.
“He’s an extremely hard worker throughout the offseason; every week we’re working on routes, timing and he’s just relentless in what he does and that’s why I love him,” the quarterback said.
There was one catch, however, that stood out from the rest of the pack. Facing 1st-and-10 from the Gretna 45-yard line with less than eight minutes to go, Flores found a streaking Roll on an inside seam for 53 yards.
Flores punched it in one play later for the game-winning score.
“I think he (Westside defensive back) was sitting, I had like eight comebacks and curls right before that,” Roll said. “So, he’s biting on that and I knew he was going to do that. So, I gave him a little bit of a hezi (head fake) and then I was gone because he was back biting down.”
Even Dragon coach Mike Kayl wasn’t shocked by the big performances from both of his junior standouts.
“Two kids that have played since they’re little, they know each other in and out and those two are really good competitors, so they love that moment,” the coach said. “When the game is on the line, they don’t shy away from it and they want to be able to count on each other.
“The good thing about them, they’re only juniors.”
Watch now: Highlights from the Class A football championship game
Watch now: Zane Flores runs in the lone touchdown
Watch now: Joe Roll lays out for a huge catch
Watch now: Zane Flores finds Joe Roll for a big gain in the fourth
Watch now: Anthony Rezac connects with Carter Hogan for a big catch
Watch now: Korbin Nickolite stops Dominic Rezac
Watch now: Tristan Alvaro gives Westside the lead before halftime
Watch now: Zane Flores finds Joe Roll over the midde in the first half
Watch now: Gretna defense comes up with an inteception
Watch now: The Rezac connection results in long play
Photos: Gretna holds off Omaha Westside in Class A championship