OMAHA — It maybe wasn’t the outcome Mark Wortman was expecting, but the Elkhorn coach had little to complain about.
Wortman’s Class B No. 4 Antlers picked up its second win of the season over top-ranked Waverly — this time a decisive 41-16 outcome Friday in the state high school football quarterfinals. It was a performance in which Elkhorn dominated from start to finish.
“It feels great,” Wortman said. “Waverly was really on a roll coming in, and they’re definitely one of the best teams in the state. But we feel we’re getting better and starting to click on both sides of the ball.”
Friday’s game was a stark contrast to the 13-7 grinder the Antlers pulled out over the Vikings on Sept 9.
The Antlers set the tone on their opening possession, marching 66 yards in 10 plays. Senior running back Aiden Young would take it in from 3 yards out to cap the drive.
A balanced mix of running and passing kept the usually dominant Waverly defense on its heels. Senior receiver Gannon Gragert proved to be a matchup nightmare, as the 215-pounder hauled in six passes for 145 yards and two TDs for Elkhorn.
“All year we’ve been a running team and only throw when you have to,” Gragert said. “Grant (Gutschow) threw some amazing balls tonight and we wanted to set the tone early.”
Gragert’s presence was felt throughout. His 22-yard scamper on fourth-and-10 late in the first quarter kept alive a drive that ended with him snagging a 32-yard scoring pass.
“They had two guys take our hover guy,” Gragert said on his read on the fake punt. “I just ended up keeping it and lowering my shoulder to get the first down.”
The lead swelled to 27-0 in the third quarter after Gragert went up to snare a ball in the end zone for a 20-yard TD. His 6-foot-5 frame allows him to go up and win the jump-ball battles.
Wortman likes the direction his team is headed on both sides of the ball.
“We’ve got some really good receivers,” Wortman said. “When Grant throws it up there, they’re going to go get it. But I was equally happy with our defense. We didn’t give them much and our effort was super.”
The Vikings, who entered having won six in a row, could never get untracked offensively. Senior running back Zane Schawang, who rushed for 255 yards a week ago in a win over Blair, was held to just 36 yards on nine carries.
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