State championship football teams always have a November to remember.
Certainly that’s the case for Doniphan-Trumbull in Class C-2, Exeter-Milligan in Eight Man-1 and Silver Lake in Six Man, for those schools were winners for the first time. And for Omaha Skutt in Class B, Cozad in Class C-1 and Falls City Sacred Heart in Eight Man-2, for their players tasted a state title for the first time.
In their own ways, Omaha North in Class A and coach Larry Martin never will forget this month.
The Vikings won their first playoff championship, a year after coming close in the finals, by holding off Omaha Westside 23-21 Tuesday night.
They also are the Top 10 ratings champions for the first time since 1956.
Martin became a championship coach and a proud father of a fourth child only 11 days apart. His wife, Mari, gave birth on Nov. 15 — while he was with his team for North’s semifinal in Grand Island — to Olivia Kay, the couple’s first daughter after three boys.
The sons were with their dad Tuesday night. Zach, who set passing records at North last year, was on the sidelines this year with his dad. Grant is a sophomore wide receiver and Carter is a sixth-grader who is a ball boy for the team.
“For me and my family, what an unbelievable ride it’s been this month,” Martin said. “I’m blessed with a wife who’s been supportive as a coach’s wife. I’ve had captains talk about the leadership they got from Zach that was paid forward.
“Then to have a daughter born on the same day as my mother’s death two years ago, I’m truly, truly blessed.”
North’s season was notable for a lack of major injuries or, on the surface, adversity. Martin, though, said one rocky time was during the Vikings’ 39-34 comeback win at Grand Island.
“You find out about the character of the team when it’s needed the most,” the coach said. “One of the things we talk about is being able to handle failure. Right now, parents alleviate failure by passing it off onto other people. We said you have to handle failure and as coaches, we have your back. Too many times when kids fail people want to displace the blame and to me, that’s missing out on opportunities to handle that since ultimately in life it’s something they have to learn.
“It surfaced up a little bit in Grand Island. We saw some signs of instead of accepting blame. ... We have a great coaching staff and have high expectations. These past two years, when the defense needed help, the offense or special teams came around. When our offense needed some help, the defense stood up. That’s a sign of a great football team.”
When the Vikings returned late Monday night from Lincoln, there was a welcoming committee of former players and parents in the parking lot.
“It really had been a quiet ride home. The players were tired,” Martin said. “That’s the way it should be if you beat a quality program like Westside.”
Wednesday was a scheduled day off for students in the Omaha schools, so North couldn’t celebrate with classmates. Martin said there will be a team photo taken and a banquet honoring the champions in the near future.
“What a great night it was for our team, the community and this school,” the coach said.
Who’s No. 2? In the Top 10, it easily was runner-up Omaha Westside. Same for runner-up York in Class B. But in some other classes, the state runner-up doesn’t finish at No. 2 in the rankings because of uneven strength between the east and west brackets.
In Class C-1, where champion Cozad came out of the west, Boone Central/Newman Grove finishes ahead of Ashland-Greenwood. Boone Central had five wins over ranked teams, including two in the playoffs, before falling 35-7 in the semifinals at Cozad.
It’s the same thing in C-2, with Battle Creek at No. 2 over David City Aquinas. The Monarchs, who were not ranked after a 6-2 regular season, upset ranked teams Fremont Bergan and Norfolk Lutheran while getting a chance to play for a third consecutive title.
Battle Creek, meanwhile, had been undefeated coming out of a district that ended up with three teams in the final rankings and the Braves were deep enough to overcome a couple player suspensions to beat two ranked teams before falling to the champion Cardinals in the semifinals.
In Eight Man-1, state runner-up Hemingford finishes second to Exeter-Milligan by giving the Timberwolves their biggest scare of the season in the final. The Bobcats led 18-0 before losing 20-18.
In Eight Man-2, runner-up Stuart finishes fifth. The Broncos came out of a west bracket that was considerably weaker than the east.
The final No. 2 is Wynot, which lost to Sacred Heart 61-44 in the semifinals before Sacred Heart beat Stuart 63-14 for the title. Wynot also beat Stuart during the regular season.
Giltner, last year’s champion that lost in the quarterfinals to Wynot 52-50 on a miracle finish, and Humphrey St. Francis also are ahead of Stuart in the final analysis. Again, apologies to St. Francis for an oversight that kept them out of the previous ratings.
Omaha North: First ratings championship since 1956. The Vikings were second in 1961, 1967 and 2012.
Omaha Skutt: First ratings title since 2005.
Cozad: First ratings title since the Haymakers finished atop Class B in 1991.
Doniphan-Trumbull: Doniphan was second in 1989 and third in 1990. Trumbull’s best finish was third in Eight Man in 1977. The Cardinals’ best finish since the two schools merged was fifth last year.
Exeter-Milligan: Exeter was Eight Man champion in 1955 and 1957. Miligan was Six Man champion in 1998. The Timberwolves were second last year.
Sacred Heart: First ratings title since the Irish ran off six in a row ending in 1994. The Irish also were Class D (11-man) champions in 1972.
Silver Lake: First ratings title. The Mustangs were third last year.
Nominations due: Coaches who haven’t returned their all-state football nomination forms are reminded that Monday is the deadline. Also due are winter sports preview forms.